In May 2011, Heinz announced it was closing its tomato sauce factory in Girgarre in northern Victoria. This is at the expense of 154 jobs with possibly up to 1000 – 1500 people dislocated or affected. The company competes in a marketplace dominated by the duopoly and their private label brands. Profit margins can only be retained with cheaper inputs and labour; Heinz say they can only compete by processing offshore.
UPDATE 7 JULY 2013: Since the Heinz factory shut down, the Goulburn Valley Food Cooperative have been twice thwarted in gaining new premises. So they’ve decided to take advantage of underutilised Australian-owned operations to make their products. A virtual factory, they call it.
Next month sees their first products hit the shelves: organic pasta made at Casalare in Kyabram, and pasta sauce at the Riverina Grove gourmet food factory in Griffith, NSW. Apart from some of the spices for the sauce, the pasta and sauce combination is made from Australian produce.
It’s a welcome initiative to revitalise local food and short food chains… go Les and the GV crew!
For more details, visit gvfoodcoop.com.au
In with the new
The Goulburn Valley Food Action Committee is exploring options to try and save the factory. Les Cameron is offering the vision of a co-operative paradigm. He has a vision for value-adding to the “best tomatoes in the world”. He notes the quality of farmers’ market and sees the opportunity of taking this to a wider market.
“We’re all in favour of mass production, not mass production of crap,” he says.
Quality is how small dairies are successfully competing in a milk war; John Fairley from Country Valley has reported their sales have increased 28% when consumers started to question supermarket practices.
Good luck Girgarre! I also see opportunities in quality and a co-operative model.
For more, listen to the Radio National interview with Les Cameron and Professor Frank Zumbo.
cc photo by Leonid Mamchenkov
SMH: Shane Green, Never say die, 7 July 2013.
WeeklyTimes Now: Sarah Scopelianos, Heinz rejects co-op offer for Girgarre site, February 23, 2012
WeeklyTimes Now: Sarah Scopelianos, Co-op disappointed by Girgarre factory, February 16, 2012
ABC Rural: Lucy Barbour, Heinz cans 146 workers as factory closes in Girgarre, 6 January, 2012
ABC 7.30: Heather Ewart, Manufacturing squeeze hits Heinz factory, 20 December, 2011
ABC Rural: Tony Cattermole and Lucy Barbour, Heinz rejects offer for Girgarre tomato factory, 15 December, 2011
ABC Shepparton: Joseph Thomsen Major investor kick-starts Girgarre co-op, 2 November, 2011