Fonterra’s new $162 million manufacturing site in Darfield near Canterbury is now up and running. The whole milk powder currently rolling off the production line is bound for Southeast Asia, China and the Middle East, Fonterra sources say.

Officials of the cooperative, which posted record end-of-season production figures for May through July, say Fonterra’s exports were up 36 percent this year vs. last. Fonterra recently chartered its first export ship to the Middle East, they note.

“It has taken less than two years to bring the project together and it is a significant achievement for us and good news for Canterbury and the wider Christchurch rebuild,” says Brent Taylor, director of operations, NZ Milk, referring to the region of New Zealand still torn from a massive February 2011 earthquake.

Taylor notes that it has been smooth running for the new plant, which produced 40 metric tons of product in its first full day of operations.

“With an annual growth rate of around 5 to 6 percent, Canterbury is New Zealand’s fastest-growing region for dairy,” he adds, noting that Fonterra expects Darfield to play an important part in Fonterra’s strategy to optimize the New Zealand milk business.

Darfield is the cooperative’s first new site in 14 years and is fitted with world-leading innovation and technology, Taylor says. At peak capacity, Darfield Drier 1 will convert about 2.2 million liters of milk per day into 370 metric tons of whole milk powder. Stage Two includes extension of the site’s dry store as well as the commissioning of a second 30 metric ton per hour milk drier, which should triple the site’s capacity.