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Gearing up...An aerial photograph of the nearly completed Mataura Valley Milk plant shows the plant's boiler is already in use. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Mataura Valley Milk’s new plant is not operational quite yet but already the company is investigating expansion.

The new plant at McNab is showing signs of gearing up for its first season of production.

However, the company’s sights are already on further processing options.

General manager Bernard May said the company was in the early stages of investigating further processing options for cream.

Cream was a by-product of the infant formula-making process, Mr May said.

The investigation would involve looking at the production of products such as butter, anhydrous milk fat and ultra-heat-treated milk.

If it was decided to process the cream, another processing plant would be built on the site.

“It’s very early stages. Certainly, we are exploring that option,” Mr May said.

Further processing on the site would add value for the company’s shareholders.

A decision on further expansion at the site would be made within the next 12 months.

The plant started collecting milk from some of its 25 suppliers on June 1, he said.

The company had hit its target for suppliers for the first season.

The rest of the milk needed would be topped up by milk from Fonterra under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act.

The plant is scheduled to become operational in August.

The commissioning of the plant was under way, Mr May said.

The company had employed about 62 people, half of whom were from the district and the balance from outside the area.

Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks said it was good to see signs of further growth coming from a company that had already grown exponentially in recent times.

He said he believed the project and the investigation into further processing illustrated the potential in the district if investment was forthcoming.

The establishment of the company was good for the district, as would be any expansion of its operation in terms of providing further jobs in the district.

“Any investment of that scale has a flow-on effect,” Mr Hicks said.

Ready for Growth project chairman Richard McPhail said any growth had to be sustainable.

The Mataura Valley Milk project was an example of a partnership between the council and a company.

He believed there was some “real” growth taking place in the district.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker said MVM had been working hard to earn the respect and trust of Southlanders.

“The new addition brings more jobs and employment for our district, which is positive for towns like Gore, where workers spend their money,” Mr Walker said.

The plant is owned by China Animal Husbandry Group, which has a 72% share of MVM, and Bodco, which has a 5% share.

China Animal Husbandry Group also owns 40% of Bodco.

Southland dairy farmers will hold a 20% share and the remainder is owned by mainly New Zealand investors.

The company was on track to process 85million litres of its shareholders’ milk in the first season, Mr May said.