ABOVE: Casino Meatworks at night.
ABOVE: Casino Meatworks at night.

Food bowl business

DAIRY, cattle, sugar. The Richmond Valley is a land of plenty not only in its agricultural richness but in the way three major companies do business.

Co-op business

Norco, Northern Co-operative Meat Company and Sunshine Sugar are major players in the region, employing thousands of people and operating their co-operative businesses in a way that favours farmers and the food they produce.

Norco director Greg McNamara said the area was unique and he could see the Northern Rivers becoming the food bowl of Australia.

Farmer focus

More than 320 farmers pay $5000 to be a member of Norco. That $5000 is one share in the business and unlike other corporate companies, at Norco, one member equals one vote.

"What drives the culture of a region is the people and behaviour of the co-op,” Mr McNamara said.

"We look after farmers and that sets a tone that farming is important.”

With each farmer producing a million litres a year, Norco distributes 220 million litres of milk each year as a raw product or in its range of butter, milk drinks and ice cream.

Farming future

Mr McNamara knows what it is like for farmers. He runs 350 dairy cows at his Goolmangar farm.

For 121 years each director of Norco has been a dairy farmer.

"It is important to ensure something for the next generation,” he said.

"It is about a viable business and farming community and making sure future generations have the same opportunities.

FARMER DIRECTOR: Norco chief executive Greg McNamara.
FARMER DIRECTOR: Norco chief executive Greg McNamara.

No corporate payouts

"Norco is about more than the farmer, the consumer and the business, he said.

"Co-ops work together and make a lot of sense. It is harder because you invest in the community.”

Tellingly, "huge bonuses are not paid to the executive team”, Mr McNamara said.

With $8.5 million share capital, Norco gives farmers who sign up to supply milk, a certainty that all their milk will be used. They have a

choice of signing up for one, two or five years and are offered a set price for their milk.

"Farmers always want higher milk prices but we have to have a sustainable business as well,” Mr McNamara said.

Meatworks vision

Exporting red meat to Japan, Korea, Europe and America, the NCMC, like Norco, has members rather than shareholders.

For $250, members receive 250 shares worth $1 each.

Established in 1933, the NCMC prides itself on its farmer values.

On their website their vision includes a value statement:

"We believe in the innate worth of everyone. We express this by showing respect, compassion and fairness.”

100% Aussie sugar

In 1978 the NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative Ltd was formed when cane growers purchased the three NSW sugar mills from CSR. The mills are located at Condong on the Tweed River, Broadwater on the Richmond River and Harwood on the Clarence River. In 1989 the co-operative formed a partnership with Manildra Group and the Harwood refinery next to the mill.

Sugar mill at Broadwater.
Sugar mill at Broadwater. Susanna Freymark

Sunshine Sugar has a Farming Code of Practice to ensure farming practices that are sustainable for cane farmers and the co-operative.

Sunshine Sugar is proudly the only 100% Australian-owned sustainable certified sugar manufacturer.

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