The CEO of the Real Pet Food Company (RFFC) has come out swinging following last week's "shock" announcement they would be transferring Inverell operations to Dubbo.
The RPFC announced the Inverell factory, which employed 68 people, would be closed by December this year.
Both Inverell Shire Council mayor and the Inverell Chamber of Commerce and Industry president said the decision had come as a "shock", and expressed their belief things may have gone differently if discussions were had beforehand.
"Nothing is going wrong [on the ground], not raw material costs, not access to labour, not gas, not energy prices, none of those things, it is simply on the basis that we have to act as the [dry pet food] sector is declining," he said.
He attributed changing demand for pet food across the country and changes in consumer behaviour as the root of the decision.
"The fact the pet food market on the whole in Australia is growing - that's mainly seen in fresh, raw food... but the part that is not growing is the standard, old fashioned kibble, which is what we produce at Inverell," he explained.
"Despite the COVID pandemic, with people getting more pets... dry dog food sales is down five per cent and cat food down a few percent."
With RPFC manufacturing the product on a contract basis, Mr Grant said at least one of their contracts had been going down 15 per cent "year on year", with the volume dropping considerably.
"Inverell's factory can't be changed to wet food, can't be converted. So the decision was made to fold the smaller factory into the bigger one - and Dubbo is four times bigger."
Mr Grant said staff had been notified on Friday morning giving them the chance to ask questions and come to terms with the decision, before the announcement was made to outside stakeholders and the community.
"There was commentary about speaking to the council first," Mr Grant noted.
"In these situations, it is our strong belief that we speak to the people most affected first.
"We would want to have that confidential, that conversation with them first, and then after that we reach out to other stakeholders."
On Wednesday morning, Mr Grant said staff had been given six months' notice and "a relatively generous package, and well over what we need to do".
Some staff have expressed their willingness and "put their hands up" to work at the company's other factories across the sate and in Queensland, including on the Gold Coast.
"We've had quite a lot of interest particularly from skilled workers, who want to stay in that field," Mr Grant said.
He said he would also be having discussions with the council, chamber and other stakeholders.
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