SPC sale confirmed

Local growers hopeful of increased production
North East & Goulburn-Murray Farmer

IT has been confirmed that Goulburn-Valley based SPC has been purchased by the Shepparton Partners Collective, a joint venture assembled purely to acquire the fruit canning giant.

Shepparton Partners Collective, who is made up of Perma Funds Management, a boutique investment house, and The Eights, a private equity firm, paid $40 million at handover.

An additional $15 million is to be paid over the next four years, subject to the business performing favourably.

Shepparton Partners Collective have said their main objective will be to restructure and build the business for better returns by improving and adapting the company’s offerings.

There has been no comment on what the sale means for growers as yet.

Despite the recent sale, local growers had still not been contacted by SPC – leaving many to wonder just where their future with the cannery lay.

Gary Godwill, who sits on the board of Fruit Growers Victoria, a Mooroopna based group that represents 150 growers in the state, said there had been no contact from the new owners.

“They have indicated that they will (touch base), but at this stage they haven’t,” he said.

“SPC and farmers need to work together – that is the only way to do it.”

Like many in the area, Mr Godwill runs a diverse farming operation; an orchard, beef and some fodder production included.

He knows only too well the importance of good communication between the cannery and growers, and is hopeful the Shepparton Partners Collective will provide direction moving forward.

“We’ve had good communication in the past with SPC, and we need the new owners to steer us in the right direction,” he said.

“They are not going to run lines that are not profitable, so all we need to know is what they want us to continue growing – or say pull this out, plant this and these varieties.”

From Mr Godwill’s perspective, SPC’s strength lies in its brand loyalty and eco-friendly image.

“The advantage (we have) is it’s clean, green Australian image,” he said.

“Clear skies and clean water.

“We grow high quality fruits, and our techniques are very good – there is already a very strong loyalty to SPC, not only in Shepparton, but all over Australia.”

However, the Shepparton Partners Collective need to strengthen their export market and brand recognition if the company is going to move into a more economically viable position.

Reg Weine, SPC’s current managing director, will be retained to continue SPC’s transformation.

Retaining Mr Weine, whose world-class capability and experience in fruit and vegetable processing is well known, is an indication that the essential character of SPC will be retained.

And with the Shepparton Partners Collective offering a huge national and offshore network of investors, it is assumed the main intention will be penetration of global markets.

However, the purchase and touted restructure has been met with some trepidation, with concerns the company will be liquidated and all assets dispersed.

Shepparton Partners Collective were contacted by the North East Farmer for comment regarding this, but none was received at the time of going to print.

Nonetheless, all available press releases from the company assure the community they are committed to grow the business, and guarantee all SPC’s 375 ‘permanent staff’ will retain their jobs.

It is a challenge that Shepparton Partners Collective have taken up, with ideally the goal being to capitalise on the brand, continue to grow the Goulburn Valley range and its overseas market.

Going forward, SPC needs to factor in prices that are more sustainable for farmers, they need to communicate with their growers and they need to capitalise on local and international markets.

Positioning SPC as a premium branded product is a perfect place to start

More farming news and stories can be read in the July, 2019 print edition of North East & Goulburn-Murray Farmer or click here to access digital editions.