[8 February/The Country]

Japanese food company Imanaka has partnered with a group of Maori organisations to develop a milk processing plant to produce high-value niche products in Kawerau. It is a $32 million project that is expected to begin early next year. Chief Executive of Kawerau Dairy, Richard Jones, said it is a group of Maori entities and farms coming together, investing and supplying the milk and getting to know how things work in the whole value chain. The first stage included development of an 800 kilogram per hour dryer in order to process conventional and organic cow milk. The initial product is expected to be milk protein concentrate 85, which contains 85 percent protein and low amounts of lactose. The plant is expected to produce over 8,000 tonnes of product each season. The food processing experience the Japanese shareholder has will benefit Kawerau Dairy greatly with this new venture. 25 to 30 jobs are expected to be created from the initial development.