Regional job openings rise
Demand for labour in regional Australia has hit a new record with 94,100 regional jobs advertised online in October.
The Regional Australia Institute's end of year tally of vacancies was 1.3 per cent higher than the prior month and a whopping 26.6pc up on the same time last year.
In contrast, metropolitan Australia's job vacancy advertising drifted down from early to mid-2022.
Regional labour demand was greatest in Queensland and NSW, with 28,100 and 27,200 ads respectively, followed by Victoria.
Queensland also had the largest growth in job ads, on a monthly and annual basis - up 2.1pc and 32.7pc, respectively.
Some states had modest aggregate regional declines in October, with WA (down 1.5pc), Tasmania (1pc) and SA (0.2pc), but interestingly SA's Yorke Peninsula and Clare Valley also had the highest regional percentage rises in vacancies advertised of 8.5pc.
Woolies chases pet market
Woolworths has paid $586 million to take a 55 per cent stake in pet supplies and veterinary clinic business, Petspiration Group, which runs the PETstock retail network of pet food, accessories and services.
PETstock has about 276 retail stores in Australia and New Zealand which are aligned with 160 grooming salons and 65 veterinary clinics and during 2021-22 generated almost $700m in sales.
The company is the second biggest player in the pet supplies market and according to Woolworths managing director, Brad Banducci, the $10 billion market has room for much more growth - including in pet diet, day care and veterinary services.
Maggie re-thinks dairy sale
South Australian gourmet dairy and pantry products business, Maggie Beer Holdings, is having second thoughts about selling its Adelaide Hills' Paris Creek Farms venture as part of earlier its decision to focus on core product retailing.
The company offloaded its St David Dairy site in Melbourne and had a buyer lined up for Paris Creek, but that deal did not go ahead.
Prospective buyers for the organic farm and dairy processing business, which provides eight cheese lines to the Maggie Beer retail distribution and e-commerce business, continue to talk with Maggie Beer Holdings, but managing director, Chantale Millard, said there may be better options.
"Given increasing demand for the group's cheese products we are assessing the value of retaining the Paris Creek asset to support and protect our fast growing volumes, new product development and maintain our strong position in the specialty cheese category," she said.
Specialty cheeses, which began as just one line in 2018, now account for 22pc of net sales and are a popular part of the company's retail relationship with supermarkets.
Fonterra-Nestle JV exits Brazil
Fonterra's 20-year-old Brazilian joint venture with Nestle is to be sold to French dairy giant, Lactalis, for about $200 million in 2023 .
The Dairy Partners Americas business was created in 2003 to manufacture and commercialise dairy products across Latin America, later concentrating its business focus in Brazil.
However, it no longer fits with the New Zealand co-operative giant's revised focus on its home base milk pool in NZ and Australia.
Fonterra has 51 per cent of the Brazilian venture, which has two processing plants employing about 1300 people.
"DPA Brazil has reached maturity as an investment for us and the sale allows us to prioritise our resources to the businesses which are core to our strategy," said Fonterra chief executive, Miles Hurrell.
Cannabis plans on high
NSW-based medicinal cannabis business, Australian Natural Therapaputics Group, expects to quadruple its glasshouse production capacity after taking over the lease of Pure Cannabis Australia's cultivation site and manufacturing plant at Brisbane Airport.
Pure Cannabis Australia had its licence to manufacture the non-psychoactive drug temporarily suspended earlier this year by Queensland's Department of Health.
The ANT group, headquartered at Byron Bay, also recently expanded its manufacturing plant at Armidale and has research facilities in the Hawkesbury Valley, outside Sydney.
To help pay for its expansion drive, the eight-year-old company has also secured its first outside investor support from the self-storage and equipment hire millionaire Kennard family, with Jim Kennard joining ANT's board.
Australia's medicinal cannabis sector is forecast to be a $1.6 billion industry by 2026, up from the $423m million expected in 2022, with the global market tipped to turn over about $65b in in 2022-23.
More WA urea site worries
The collapse of infrastructure contracting company, Clough, could pose more problems for northern West Australia's planned Perdaman urea project, which Incitec Pivot is relying on for future domestic fertiliser supplies.
Clough, which is also building the Snowy 2.0 hydro power expansion and other major projects around Australia, went into voluntary administration in early December after a planned sale of the business to Italian giant, Webuild, fell through.
It was to have partnered with another Italian company to design and construct the Perdaman fertiliser plant.
Some traditional custodians in WA's Burrup Peninsula continue to oppose the Perdaman Chemicals' development, despite the company's assurances and agreements with other Aboriginal groups in the area.
Wet start for Cobram olives
Olive producer and oil processor, Cobram Estate, is not expecting material flood damage to its northern Victorian orchards at Boundary Bend on the the Murrumbidgee and Murray rivers, but has been frustrated by "less than ideal cool and rainy days" during last month's flowering and pollination period.
Boundary Bend flooding exceeded 1975 peaks in November and some of Cobram three Victorian olive groves still had "minor" wet areas for several weeks, which the company was continuing to assess, while also determining if rainy conditions impacted fruit set.
Meanwhile, Cobram's Californian business completed its harvest, producing 1.7 million litres of olive oil, down from 2.7 last year - as expected in the lower yielding alternate year.
Third party growers contributed about 84pc of the total US yield.
Cobram Estate will welcome former New Zealand dairy sector boss and consumer goods marketer, Toni Brendish, as a new director in January.
She was previously managing director of nutritional formula processor, Westland Milk Products and had a similar role Danone's infant formula business.
Almond exports lift
Australian almond shipments for the six months to October 30 grew nine per cent on the prior year, with consignments to China up almost 50pc.
The industry is anticipating the recent free trade agreement signed with India will significantly improve the competitiveness of the Australian crop in that market - one of the world's four big almond consumers.
Big Australian producer, Select Harvests, has forecast its 2022-23 crop will be marginally bigger than last season at 30,000 tonnes.
Select said although weather conditions had been cooler and wetter than normal, tree health remained good, however the company has warned it will face higher growing costs in the current season because of higher fertiliser and farm chemical prices.
Marquis maca push in Europe
With macadamia growers fighting to overcome recent price drops, the world's largest grower, processor, and marketer of macadamias, Marquis Macadamias, is pushing to get the crop noticed in untapped overseas markets.
Marquis was one of 23 Australian suppliers exhibiting with Austrade at the recent SIAL Paris 2022 trade event to showcase the country's unique food offerings.
It also drew international interest at Trade and Investment Queensland's Taste of Queensland International Showcase, promoting Australian nuts to more than 50 overseas buyers.
Chief executive officer, Charles Cormack, said promoting Australian macadamias to non-domestic markets was a company priority and Paris provided the opportunity to expand the group's customer base in Europe and beyond.
Grower-owned Marquis Group has almost 500 growers in Australia and South Africa who produce 43 per cent of the Australian crop, or about 24,000 tonnes, for processing.
The company, founded in 1983 as the northern NSW Macadamia Processing Company, has annual revenues of $260 million.
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