Horticulture

SPC future being reviewed

By Country News

Coca-Cola Amatil could sell fruit processor SPC at the end of a review announced by the food and beverage company as part of its six-monthly financial results report.

The review of SPC comes at the end of a $100million investment program for the Shepparton division.

SPC managing director Reg Weine said: ‘‘all options are on the table’’.

‘‘The days of talking about SPC closing are well behind us. This is a positive story about how we invest for the future,’’ Mr Weine said.

While Mr Weine said the business was in good shape, last year was the first for a number of years the company had been in profit.

Mr Weine said it was spending $18million of its own money on upgrades.

City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keefe said the city valued the contribution SPC made to the community and looked forward to its continued success.

‘‘It’s a great organisation, a significant business and employer in Greater Shepparton,’’ she said.

SPC’s owner, CCA, has engaged consultant Kidder Williams to assist in the strategic review, which may take six or 12 months.

Mr Weine disclosed that the company was also hoping to conclude the sale of the Kyabram IXL factory within the next month.

‘‘SPC turned 100 years old this year and we want to make sure we set up for sustainable growth into the next century,’’ he said.

Asked about potential job losses, Mr Weine said he was talking about growth and investment in the future.

‘‘SPC has a bright future.

‘‘Coca-Cola Amatil have been an incredibly supportive owner, they have owned it for 13 years, invested in excess of $244million in the business and done all the things they have said they would do. They have been incredibly patient.

‘‘We don’t generate the returns that other parts of the business generate, and boards have to make strategic choices. We see this as a positive step in the right direction.’’

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has confirmed it will work with SPC to keep jobs in the region.

‘‘We will be consulting with our members about the review and engaging in an open dialogue with SPC to help develop future growth options,’’ Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national food secretary Jason Hefford said.

Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed told reporters SPC may be for sale because fruit processing was not CCA’s core business.

‘‘This is an iconic brand that deserves support,’’ she said.

‘‘My concern ... as a local representative, is for welfare of community and that is served by having a functioning factory in our town to deal with fruit we produce.’’

Opportunities Presented

News of the potential sale or merger of SPC should be approached with an open mind, and may present new opportunities, according to the VFF.

VFF horticulture president Emma Germano said while much was still to unfold following the news CCA was considering options for the future of the Shepparton cannery, the interests of the region’s growers needed to be taken in to account as the situation developed.

‘‘While there remain many unknowns, it is our hope that any sale or merger will contribute to new opportunities and a sustainable future for growers in the region, as well as across Victoria.

‘‘Like any business, horticulture growers require certainty and stability to operate successfully, and it is hoped any sale or merger may provide that.

‘‘Similarly, for any business looking to take on the running of the SPC facility, there are significant opportunities for innovation, new product development, and the establishment of a sustainable operation,’’ Ms Germano said.

Jobs important for region

The Nationals’ Candidate for Shepparton Peter Schwarz says Daniel Andrews must live up to his promise to save jobs in Shepparton.

‘‘SPC Ardmona has been a vital part of Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley for more than 100 years, both in the direct jobs it provides our community and through the money it spends buying produce from our farmers,’’ Mr Schwarz said.

‘‘That’s why The Nationals in the former government fought hard to secure a $22million support package to save jobs in Shepparton at SPC four years ago.

‘‘If I’m elected, I’ll keep fighting for a better deal for jobs in Shepparton.’’

Union to work with SPC

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has confirmed it will work with SPC after a review of the company was announced by its owner Coca-Cola Amatil.

The union’s national food secretary John Hefford said it was too early to tell what could happen.

‘‘We’re prepared to work with SPC for any review as we look to keep jobs in the Goulburn Valley,’’ he said.

‘‘We want to reinforce the message for the need to enforce jobs in the area because we don’t want to all live in Melbourne and Sydney.’’

Mr Hefford said if another business was to purchase the Shepparton company, the Fair Work Act would provide workers with some surety.

‘‘Under the Fair Work Act, it becomes a transition of business, you have to honour the entitlement,’’ he said.

‘‘(But) that’s a long way down the track.’’