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Jobs risk as Port Lincoln food processor loses contract


More than 100 factory jobs will be on the line in Port Lincoln when a food processing company loses a major contract in mid-June.

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Port Lincoln Tuna Processors was known as Australia’s last tuna cannery before John West moved those operations to Thailand in 2010.

The company has since focused on the processing and packaging of gravies, sauces, purees, baby food, soups, and custards for some of Australia’s largest food businesses.

Its workforce of 260 in 2010 has been trimmed to about 130-150 staff and is still one of the town’s largest employers.

But in a statement released yesterday, PLTP says a lack of work is forcing it to consult with employees about “significant structural changes” that will come into place from mid-June.

“This development follows notification by a major customer of its intention to not renew production contracting, and a lack of new opportunities or support for operations in the present economic environment,” the statement said.

PTLP managing director Mario Valcic said the company had been a respected member of the Port Lincoln business community since 1973.

“It is saddening to have to face the present reality,” he said in the statement.

“We have worked very hard to sustain our operations amid challenging business conditions in regional South Australia and COVID-19 upheavals.”

Port Lincoln has a population of about 16,000 and relies on farming and the seafood industry to drive local employment.

Mayor Brad Flaherty said although he had only heard of the company’s recent struggles secondhand at this stage, the potential loss of jobs would be devastating.

“They employ 150-odd people I think so it’s pretty significant,” he said.

“I’ve not seen anything from the company to confirm that it’s occurring but if it is the case, it would be a blow for us.”

However, Flaherty was upbeat about job opportunities in the region and the emergence of several major projects in mining, shipping and space.

“We’re lucky enough to have a lot of service industry and tourism industry type jobs available at the moment too,” he told InDaily.

“The feel in the town is very positive – business is positive in the sense that the service industries have been firing since June last year.

“Real estate is going really well and we’ve had a huge influx of people coming across from SA and interstate saying ‘why have you been hiding this place’.”

Flaherty said the opportunities were there for people to re-skill or adapt their existing skill base in the near future.

“Hopefully we’ve got port projects like Cape Hardy that will get up, we’ve got rockets that may be going from Eyre Peninsula so there are different industries knocking on the door that would be complementary to the existing agricultural and primary industries like fishing.”

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