Milk processor Murray Goulburn is set to fall into foreign hands after shareholders overwhelmingly voted yesterday in favour of selling the co-operative to Canadian company Saputo.
It was labelled a ‘‘sad day’’ for some. But a silver lining for the region was found in the knowledge a strong company was taking the reins.
At an extraordinary general meeting in Melbourne yesterday, 97.9 per cent of shareholders voted in favour of the $1.31billion sale.
The co-operative made the decision to sell in October following the loss of hundreds of suppliers in the wake of the 2016 milk price crisis, with milk supply levels plummeting as the co-operative lost more than 1billion litres of annual milk supply in just 12 months.
Saputo chief executive officer Lino Saputo Jr said the vote was a ‘‘significant milestone’’ in the company’s bid to acquire Murray Goulburn.
It was the end of an era for many, with Murray Goulburn supplier director Craig Dwyer encouraging suppliers to ‘‘turn to the future’’.
‘‘MG has meant many things to many people; suppliers and employees alike,’’ Mr Dwyer told the meeting.
‘‘To all those generations that preceded up to help build the MG we have all belonged to, I think you... I would encourage you all to give (Saputo) a chance to prove themselves with your supply, and build on the foundations created by so many of you and your hard-working dairy farming predecessors.’’
Committee for Greater Shepparton chair Rob Priestly said the ‘‘whole community benefits from dairy as a critical economic driver’’.
‘‘And our local farmers will benefit from strong competition for their product. It will be a sad day to see MG sold, but a strong Saputo is better for the region than a weakened MG.’’
Mr Priestly said the committee was keen to engage with all dairy processors to help ‘‘ensure a secure future for the industry in this region’’.
Originally established in Cobram in 1950 by seven dairy farmers, the co-operative grew to 2000 suppliers and shareholders, with factories across the country, including in Cobram and Rochester, which was closed in January.
The sale, if approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board, is expected to be completed by May 1.