Last Australian food cannery turns off the light

  • March 14, 2013
  • Sophie Langley

Australia’s only wholly Australian-owned cannery, Windsor Farm Foods Group Ltd, has shut its doors. The industry body that represents Australia’s vegetable and potato growers, AusVeg, says the closure has broader implications for the entire Australian food growing and manufacturing sector.

Windsor Farm Foods Group Ltd, which is based in Cowra in Central West New South Wales, went into voluntary administration on Tuesday 12 March 2013. The closure  resulted in 70 workers at the Cowra site being stood down with no pay.

“Losing Windsor Farms has been another nail in the coffin in the industry,” said William Churchill from AusVeg. The closure is another example of a ‘death by a thousand cuts’, with the tough economic climate, retail space competition, and the supermarket duopoly putting more and more pressure on both growers and food manufacturers, he added.

The AusVeg spokesperson said that AusVeg was supportive of the investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) into the conduct of major supermarkets, and calls for a ‘Supermarket Ombudsman’, but he said government support was necessary, and suggested that the Australian Government’s Clean Technology Food and Foundries grant program should be expanded to include food growers, not just food manufacturers.

Windsor Farm Foods Group was established in 1975, originally under the name Mushroom Growers (Co-op) Society. The Group, which also owns Illawarra Jam Company, Warringah Foods, and Prima Herbs and Spices, acquired the Cowra factory in 2000 when it took over Cowra Export Packers Pty Ltd.

The cannery itself has been in use since 1943, and for much of its history was used to process vegetables, such as peas, beans, tomatoes, carrots and beetroot, grown nearby. In 1995, the factory began canning mushrooms, red kidney beans and canned bean mixes for major supermarkets. Foods were packed at the site for the ‘Edgell’, ‘Cowra Gold’, and ‘Lachlan Gold’ brands, as well as for supermarket labels ‘Homebrand’, ‘No Frills’, ‘Savings’ and I.G.A.

In 2003, facilities for processing baker’s jams and fillings, and fruit straps were constructed at the Cowra site.

Administrators, Grant Thornton Recovery and Reorganisation Partners, said they would review Windsor Farm Foods Group’s business operations in an effort to sell the business for the benefit of the Company’s creditors.

Australia has had a spate of food manufacturing closures in the last few years. Most recently, Australian Food News reported that iconic Australian brand Rosella – most well-known for its tomato sauce – would cease operations. Heinz Australia also closed its tomato sauce factory in Gigarre, Victoria, in January 2012. Coca-Cola Amatil’s subsidiary cannery operation SPC Ardmona in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley is currently being  reorganised after a restructuring that saw many jobs being lost.

In mid 2011, Heinz’s move of its Golden Circle beetroot and fruit processing facility fin Queensland’s Lockyer Valley was shut down as its business was partly shifted from Australia to New Zealand.  This closure resulted in the immediate loss of 340 Australian jobs.

Australian Food and Grocery Council figures show that in the 2011-12 year, 7000 Australian jobs were directly lost because of food business closures – as 335 businesses in the Australian food sector closed down or moved overseas.


Windsor Farm Foods has closed


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7 Responses to “Last Australian food cannery turns off the light”

  1. Gazoom on March 14th, 2013 4:23 pm

    If Coles and Woolies are treating their suppliers so well how come so many factory closures……….its a joke ACCC. Go talk to these guys and find out why they have gone broke, go talk to Rosella, go talk to Byron Bay Cookies. WAKE UP ACCC you can’t see the forest for the trees.

  2. maryellen flynn on March 15th, 2013 12:00 am

    this is a very sad day in the life of cowra and its residents.
    i sincerely hope that something can be done. the supermarkets should not have so much say in what goes on and lets hope that the government either local or federal will take a stance on this.

  3. Lynne Wilkinson on March 15th, 2013 8:57 am

    Decades of short term thinking policies have pushed our farmers and our manufacturers to the wall. These are our people in our communities. Time to Wake Up Australia. Every consumer can make a choice to support locally owned businesses. It is not a level playing field when our people are expected to compete with products that do not meet the same growing standards, have lower wages, interests rates and enjoy government subsidies. We sign Free Trade Agreements with countires laughing all the way to our banks. Check our the AUSBUY Guide in stores to see the businesses who need our support. Australian ownership means the decisions, profits, jobs, skills and reinvestment stay here.

  4. Bill Mannix on June 2nd, 2013 8:11 am

    In 20 to 30 years time maybe even less, this country will be on its knees with regards to multi-nationals like Coles and Woolworths. The problem with manufacturing and farming in this country is our politicians who these days are only concerned with their own pockets. The ACCC is just another political party set up to take away pressure from the politicians who are not doing what they were voted in to do. Unfortunately, nothing is going to change much in the next election. We will just have the same old things happening to our country. I am older person now, and have enjoyed the best years of living in Australia. I feel very sorry for the young people coming through today who are going to be relying everything they eat and wear from overseas. If you want to survive in this country you will have to take remedial action right now or this country will finish up third world.

  5. John Milne on August 8th, 2013 1:35 pm

    It’s a Bloody Disgrace That Accc or The Government Don’t Do Anything There
    Useless What Is the Use of Having These Departments If They Have No Teeth
    And Good People Loose there Jobs

  6. Nancy Hansen on February 18th, 2014 11:08 am

    I am a pensioner and I buy as much Australian even if it is more expensive.I am still able to manage.I avoid buying produce items such as fruit ,veggies,meat and eggs from Coles and Woolworths as I want to keep supporting my local fruit and veggie and butcher shops.I do shop at Coles and Woolworths for other items as I do not have any other choice.Coles and Woolworths proclaim to be wholly Australian but we all know that this is false advertising but they know that we the consumer have no choice but to go to their stores.Australia and the powers that be should wake up and support our farmers and produce suppliers.I am strongly opposed to Australia being sold off to other countries all because of greed.

  7. Merran Hansen on February 18th, 2014 11:17 am

    Coles and Woolworth’s do not fully support Australia as we all know they push to sell their no name brands and some people buy no name because of financial issues.I am disappointed that these big companies do not support Australia as much as they could because they are only interested in how much money they can make.Why can’t the ACC push more to support Australians and The farmers and growers and other Australian owned businesses

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