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Fonterra eyes Chinese consumers with Australian cheese plant

Appetite for pizza fuels surging dairy demand

Fonterra's rebuilt plant in Stanhope, Victoria, can produce 45,000 tons of cheese a year.

MELBOURNE -- Fonterra Co-operative Group, New Zealand's largest dairy company, on Friday opened a new plant in southeastern Australia to make cheeses for China, Japan and other markets.

The 140 million Australian dollar ($111 million) plant in Stanhope, Victoria -- a farming town two hours north of here -- replaces a facility destroyed in a fire in December 2014. The new plant boasts a 50% higher production capacity, letting it churn out 45,000 tons of mozzarella and other cheeses a year. At the opening ceremony, Chairman John Wilson called the facility a strategic investment with an eye toward global cheese consumption.

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