A restructured management approach that has put more onus on staff is paying dividends for farm managers Isaac and Michelle Johnstone.
The Chinese owner of VDL Farms plans to start fresh milk exports to China under the new brand “VAN Milk” from the first quarter of next year.
Moon Lake Investments Managing Director Mr Sean Shwe unveiled the VAN brand and details of the company’s plans for direct flights to ship fresh milk from Hobart Airport to Ningbo in China.
Three shipments of VAN Milk have been sent to China in the past three months for testing as part of the regulatory requirements to export products to the country.
The success of the trial shipments paves the way for the company to export milk from the VDL Farms on Tasmania’s far north-west coast.
Mr Shwe said negotiations with a number of airline companies and airports to initially fly weekly round trips from Hobart to Ningbo starting in the first quarter of 2017, with a view to increasing the frequencies to 2-3 times per week in 12 months, were at an advanced stage.
This will open Tasmania’s first regular international air freight route to Asia.
“This is an exciting venture for our company, VDL Farms and potentially for all Tasmanian producers of fresh, perishable produce such as sea food, fruit and vegetables,” Mr Shwe said.
“It will be a game changer for Tasmania and Moon Lake and VAN are proud to be leading the charge,” he said.
About 10 million liters of milk – about 10% of VDL’s annual milk production – will be processed under contract by Lion Dairy in Hobart which is currently Tasmania’s only licensed export pasteurized milk processor with the scale Moon Lake requires.
The sale of VDL to Chinese interests prompted an angry reaction from some within Tasmania earlier this year, with local businesswomen Jan Cameron leading an opposition campaign called Save the Farm.
But Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) Dairy Council Chairman Andrew Lester said that the latest move could open doors for increased exports of the high value product in the future.
“Moon Lake Investments’ continued confidence in the sector will further reinforce the importance of our dairy industry, and the Tasmanian brand in general, to key international export markets,’’ Mr Lester said.
“The move could also free up a certain amount of processing capability for other dairy farmers within the State.
“This is a much needed positive sign for our industry.”