Blayney pet food plant closed amid central NSW lockdown

Liz Wells, 22/07/2021

Nestlé’s Blayney site closed on Sunday and will reopen once the company and authorities are satisfied its operation does not present a COVID risk. Photo: Nestlé

ONE of Australia’s largest pet food-manufacturing plants remains closed this week amid a COVID lockdown in place in the City of Orange and the Blayney and Cabonne shires.

Collectively, the three local government areas (LGAs) in central New South Wales are home to Manildra Group’s flour mill and MSM Milling’s canola crushing plant, both at Manildra, and Nestlé’s Purina pet food plant at Blayney.

Only the Purina plant is closed at this stage because it was visited last week by a truck driver who later tested positive to COVID.

“We don’t yet know when the plant will reopen,” Nestlé said in a statement provided to Grain Central.

“When we closed the factory on Sunday, we asked all staff to get a COVID-19 test, and commenced professional cleaning.

“This is not complete.

“NSW Health told us on Tuesday when the positive result came back that we should close the factory, which of course we had already done.”

Because the driver had visited a number of locations in Orange, the NSW Government made the decision to put the three LGAs into a seven-day lockdown which starting at 12:01 AM yesterday.

Grain Central understands several truck drivers who visited the site in recent days and who live outside the three LGAs are in home quarantine for a 14-day period.

The central west lockdown now in effect is the first in inland NSW to be implemented since state-wide stay-at-home orders issued in response to initial COVID-related restrictions were lifted in May last year.

Other homes for now

Blayney is Nestlé’s only Australian pet food factory.

It is believed to use roughly 35,000 tonnes per annum in total of grain and grain by-products, including mill run from the Manildra flour mill.

Central NSW is home to two other pet food manufacturing sites, Mars Petcare Bathurst and Real Pet Food Company at Dubbo, and these are located outside the lockdown area.

Real Pet Food Company has two other NSW sites, Ingleburn near Sydney and Inverell in the state’s north, while Mars Petcare has its second Australian site at Wodonga on the NSW-Victorian border.

Because pet food manufacture is deemed an essential service, the Blayney factory can resume operations once its deep clean is complete and its workers return COVID-negative results.

Trade sources have said they were expecting it to reopen next week.

The site is a major user of by-products from chicken-processing at plants including Baiada’s Hanwood facility in the NSW Riverina, and a user of some imported inputs including fishmeal.

Trade sources have said other pet food manufacturers and end-users are able to up their intake of fresh chicken by-products while the Blayney factory is closed.

Grain, mostly wheat, generally accounts for one quarter of the input in large-scale pet food manufacturing.

The plants also use some red meat and meat meal.

In July last year, Nestlé Australia announced a $90 million upgrade to the Blayney site to extend its existing production areas and install new equipment to increase production capacity and exports.

The upgrade was expected to take about 18 months to complete.

The company said more than 80 per cent of the raw materials used at Blayney were sourced locally, including meat and grains.

In 2019, more than $45 million worth of pet food left Blayney for export to markets including Japan, New Zealand and Thailand.

The Nestlé factory in Blayney opened in 1989, and in July last year employed more than 280 staff, and worked with more than 60 local businesses and contractors in western NSW.

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