Bega Cheese is spending about $2-3 million on infrastructure improvements to the Peanut Company of Australia, PCA, factory.
Bega Cheese is spending about $2-3 million on infrastructure improvements to the Peanut Company of Australia, PCA, factory. Michael Nolan

This business will be looking for more staff

THE Peanut Company of Australia's parent organisation, Bega Cheese, is on track to finish $2-3 million worth of improvements to safety and production capacity at its Kingaroy and Tolga sites.

PCA's new chairman, Max Roberts, said the works need to be done to make room for what he hopes will be an increase in peanut production across Queensland in the coming years.

"The initial emphasis is on safety around the plant, it has a pretty good record and we want to make sure it improves,” he said.

This fresh injection of capital is the first major work to be done on the plant in about 7-8 years.

"There's probably a list of things that need to be done.

"But actually the plant is in pretty good condition and it's a credit to the people looking after it that they've maintained it to a high standard,” Mr Roberts said.

Once the safety work is done Mr Roberts said PCA would increase its drying, storage and processing capacity. At the same time Bega is encouraging more farmers to plant peanuts as it pursues a goal of using 100per cent locally sourced legumes in its peanut butter.

"To handle next year's harvest we may well need some capital improvements, we hope we will. We're certainly looking for more peanuts and looking for significant lift in planting.

To get this increase, PCA has lifted the base price for peanuts by $100 per tonne.

"Other things we will be doing is paying for all the peanuts 30 days after delivery. In the past that could have been several months that farmers waited,” Mr Roberts said.

Despite the takeover, there are no plans to make back office staff redundant at the Kingaroy factory.

Rather, Mr Roberts said they'll look at a fresh round of hiring in the future.

"We hope with increased supply that we will be putting people on,” he said.

"There's no planned redundancies.

"One of the major assets we got with PCA is the people, who are very committed to that business.

"We've promoted some of the sales people from PCA into the main business and there'll be opportunities for people to be involved in other locations.”

Along with safety and capacity improvement, Mr Roberts said there would be a lot of behind-the-scenes changes over the longer term.

"It's not going to be a rushed change or something like that, it's going to be a structured change.”

"Over time PCA will merge into the business, in the sense of software programs and the back office work but the main manufacturing operation will stay autonomous.”

It'll be a slow process to increase production but Bega expects to have a good idea of how many extra paddocks will be under peanuts by mid-September later this year.