Cooperation and collaboration are two words which come to mind when describing the relatively new Maori-owned milk processing plant, Miraka, near Taupo.
Miraka (Maori for milk) is the outcome of a vision shared by a group of Maori trusts and incorporations with land and dairy holdings in the central plateau. They were looking to add value to their farming enterprises beyond the farm gate by investing in the manufacture and marketing of their own products.
The two major shareholders are the Tuaropaki Trust, which owns the land where the plant is sited, and Wairarapa Moana Incorporation, which runs around 10,000 dairy cows on land it owns at Pouakani near Mangakino.
Other shareholders include Waipapa 9 Trust, Hauhungaroa Partnership, Tauhara Moana Trust, Pouakani Trust, and Te Awahohonu Forest Trust Limited.
Strategic partners are Vinamilk, the largest milk manufacturer and dairy products enterprise in Vietnam, with a 23 per cent shareholding, and Global Dairy Network, which brings experience and knowledge in dairy sales and marketing internationally.
Miraka CEO Richard Wyeth, who has been with the organisation since 2010, says the joint venture means the two trusts could make good use of the geothermal power, pool assets and bring in others to get the economy of scale.
“The success of this project is a result of great leadership and a clear unity of purpose by those whanau involved. Their focus is to develop a business that will bring long-term sustainable returns to present and future shareholders from assets that will never be sold,” says Richard.
Miraka has a strong focus on land preservation and eco-friendly business practices. The sustainable initiatives include using renewable geothermal energy rather than coal to power its plant. The company treats its waste through worm farms and uses the by-product to fertilise soil for growing vegetables in local glasshouses. Also established is a planting programme to protect riparian waterways on the dairy farms.
The whole milk powder plant has the capacity to produce 35,000 tons per year, which is exported to 23 different countries with the majority going to China.
In July 2013 the plant was expanded to include a two-line Ultra Heat Treatment milk production plant with a 60 million litre capacity. All of this product (240 million units per year) is exported to China where milk has become the preferred drink for families.
“Right from the beginning Miraka was determined to produce the best product from the best farms,” says Richard.
Te Ara Miraka is the company’s Farming Excellence Programme. It seeks to improve efficiency on farms and produce first-class milk with low environmental impact. The programme provides financial incentives to its milk suppliers who work on improving animal welfare, their environmental footprint, the quality of their milk and staff training.
Miraka has just launched its first consumer product – Whaiora – a smoothie blend. There are three varieties (berry, green and gold) packaged in 400g tins. Whaiora is available in New Zealand online and in specialty health food stores, and is also exported to Singapore.
The second new product is Taupo Pure – a whole milk powder branded around the story of the milk’s origins in Taupo from farms located 80km from the factory. It is a product which is able to trace production from the farm paddock to finished product. It will be exported to China where the demand for traceable and high-quality products is high. It is also available in specialty stores in New Zealand and online.
The future looks bright for Miraka and its partners with several value-added products in the research and development stage, offering plenty of scope for future earnings.
“We believe consumers worldwide are looking to buy quality products from businesses that follow sustainable practices. We have a head start in terms of delivering that. It also means we can get a better return for our assets if we do it ourselves and do a good job,” says Richard.