Coffs blueberry revolution to reach new heights
THE Coffs Coast's blueberry revolution is set to skyrocket to new heights with the announcement of a major new facility for the region's growers.
Oz Group Co-op Ltd has purchased the former Coffs Harbour Bunnings Warehouse site.
The company will spend approximately $12 million on a processing and distribution facility, including the building cost.
The development will be four times larger than the co-operative's current facility in Woolgoolga and should create up to 120 full-time and casual positions.
Chief executive Kamaldeep Singh Clair said the new site would facilitate production growth that is expected to increase by 20% this year.
"The Woolgoolga facility has been running at full capacity and we've been looking for expansion for some time," he said.
"This facility will allow us to move fresh produce more effectively on the growers' behalf.
"We can get our product to market sooner and in better condition."
The facility will feature state-of-the-art technology, including three additional packing lines, a cooling facility and distribution centre.
It is expected to be fully operational for the 2016 harvesting season.
As well as facilitating growth in the fresh market, the facility will be capable of accommodating the planned expansion into processed berries.
"Most of the processed fruit in Australia is imported but the quality of fruit gives us an advantage," he said.
"The local industry is already worth $120 million.
"New growers are coming to Woolgoolga and production will continue to rise.
"This (facility) is the next stage in the blueberry revolution."
The co-operative will retain its Woolgoolga site as a loading facility where berries will be transported to Coffs Harbour for packing
The local blueberry industry employs approximately 3000 employees involved with picking, packing and farm maintenance in the region.
The exterior of the Bunnings Warehouse structure will remain intact as part of the development.