Norco has been forced to delay the reopening of its ice cream factory in Lismore due to supply chain issues in China.
The company announced last October a $59 million reinvestment in its flood-hit Lismore facility saving hundreds of jobs.
It had aimed for production to gradually resume from April this year, with workers returning progressively over months as various lines came on board.
But the earliest the production lines could get up and running has been put back to August.
Despite the broader construction and rebuild process tracking well, the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 in China have created unforeseen sourcing delays on critical electrical equipment, which has in turn impacted key timelines.
Norco Chief Executive Officer Michael Hampson said that while he's naturally disappointed by these delays, he does want to commend the progress made by his team on the reconstruction efforts thus far, with support from local trades and services.
"After the damage it incurred, rebuilding the ice cream facility has been no small feat," he said.
"This electrical component supply issue aside, we've not experienced any other difficulties with the building works, so I'd like to take this opportunity to thank both the Norco workforce and our construction partners for all they've achieved on the rebuild to date.
"Unfortunately, global supply chain shortages cannot be controlled and despite the best of intentions, we've had to adjust our timelines accordingly.
"That said, we are extremely motivated to get this facility back up and running.
"Our teams are working incredibly hard so that we can welcome back our workforce and recommence making Australia's best tasting ice cream as soon as possible."
Now subject to the availability of key electrical equipment, Norco hopes to be able to commission the first production line in August this year, at which point the first wave of employees would be welcomed back to work.
The commissioning of additional production lines and full re-engagement of the workforce will then take place in a phased approach, with the view to the facility being fully operational by the end of October 2023.
Once fully operational, Norco will remain one of the region's biggest private employers. It will also continue to drive significant economic activity, helping to support the ongoing recovery efforts of small and medium businesses within the Lismore community, as they too continue to rebuild almost twelve months on from the major flooding event.
Hampson added that the rebuild and construction process also continues to deliver significant benefits for local trades and services, with work continuing to be awarded to Northern Rivers service providers where possible.
He also noted that despite the ice cream facility being non-operational for close to 12 months, the future of Australia's oldest and largest 100% farmer owned dairy co-operative looks bright.
"Norco operates a number of businesses beyond just ice cream, all of which are in growth phases and performing well," he said.
"The Norco milk brand, through its continued customer support, is the number one growing mainstream brand in Australia, and we will continue our focus on NPD to bring high quality Norco branded products to our loyal customers.
"During this time, we've also been incredibly proud to have led the industry on farmgate milk price, which has further supported our farmer members in their rebuild and recovery efforts - and will remain a focus of our co-operative."
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