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The plant produced 40 metric tonnes of product in its first full day of operation. The first bags of whole milk powder are destined for Southeast Asia, China and the Middle East.
It had taken less than two years to bring the project together and it was a "significant achievement" for the co-operative and good news for Canterbury and the wider Christchurch rebuilding, Fonterra New Zealand milk products operations director Brent Taylor said in a statement.
The plant is the co-operative's first new site in 14 years and, at peak capacity, drier 1 will convert about 2.2 million litres of milk per day into 370 metric tonnes of whole milk powder.
Stage two of the development includes extension of the dry store as well as the commissioning of a second 30MT/hour milk drier, which will triple the site's capacity.
The plant includes a giant 500,000-litre silo, the biggest made in a New Zealand workshop, which was transported to the site in one piece.
The plant produces instant and regular whole milk powder for countries in Asia and the Middle East.
Canterbury was New Zealand's fastest growing region for dairying, with a current annual growth rate of about 5%-6%, Mr Taylor said.
The new site reduces the distance Fonterra milk tankers need to travel by 20,000km a day.