MORE than 100 new full-time equivalent jobs are on track to be created by September this year, following the opening of the $7.1 million expansion of the Costa Distribution Centre in East Devonport.
The expanded and upgraded Distribution Centre (DC), which started operations late last year in time for the summer berry harvest, was formally opened by the Member for Braddon and Minister for Planning, Mr Roger Jaensch and Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff on May 16.
In 2016 Costa received $1.4 million funding from the Tasmania Jobs and Investment Fund (administered by the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science) to construct a further modified atmosphere facility and undertake a significant expansion and upgrade of the East Devonport Distribution Centre.
The building includes refrigerated loading docks, four ambient temperature unloading docks, packing room, cooling room and new administration and amenities facilities.
David Jordan, General Manager of the Costa Berry Category, said the facility now had double the capacity to store berries in modified atmosphere storage meaning Costa could also invest in the further expansion of its Tasmanian production footprint.
“This is a state-of-the-art facility, which will enhance our capacity to expand our berry operations and in turn create more employment opportunities in the North-West,” Mr Jordan said.
“The facility has enabled the season to be extended and for the product to be sold into the market at a time when there has traditionally been no, or very low supply. It also fills the market at a time when there have traditionally been only imports from New Zealand.
“We have moved 8,000 tonnes of fruit through the DC this year, and are expecting this to grow by more than 20 per cent next season. We have also significantly increased our dispatch capability, with 477 pallets, equating to 12 semi-trailers, loaded in a single shift.”
Cooling times for fruit have also been cut by half, ensuring the longest possible shelf life for Tasmanian fruit.
Costa Berries has around 170 hectares of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries on the North-West coast. At the peak of the harvest season, Costa employs a workforce of around 2000 people.
The DC also provides increased capacity for berries from third party growers across the North-West.
Mr Jordan said since the announcement of the funding in June 2016, a total of 90 new additional full-time equivalent jobs had been created, and this was on track to increase by the end of September this year.
“Tasmania is a key berry growing region, and the only location where we grow the four main berry types – blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries,” he said.