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Dairy closure ‘is a body blow’

body blowTHE proposed closure of Dairy Crest’s Proper Welsh Milk dairy at Whitland, which puts 31 jobs in jeopardy, is a major body blow for the region’s capacity to process milk locally, a Farmers’ Union of Wales official said on Monday.

FUW vice president Brian Walters, who runs a dairy farm near Carmarthen, said: “There is already a lack of processing capacity for milk in Wales and this move, so soon after Dairy Crest took over the dairy, comes at a time when there are increasing calls for more local processing.

“As a local dairy farmer I think it is a great pity because we need more processing capacity in Wales, not less, to help cut down on food miles and prepare ourselves for the abolition of Milk Quota in 2015.

“If we are hoping to produce more milk in the future to meet an expanding market, we need to be able to access more processing capacity locally, not further away.”

Proper Welsh invested £1.5m there in 2011 and at the time it was hoped the dairy would process and bottle up to 10 million litres of locally-sourced milk each year.

Dairy Crest announced it is starting consultation with the 31 employees and their representatives regarding the proposed closure of Proper Welsh Milk dairy which it bought from administrators in March this year with the aim of maintaining production and employment and developing new products at the site.

However, production volumes had fallen short of expectations and significant investment was needed to bring the site up to Dairy Crest standards, they added.

Mark Allen, Chief Executive of Dairy Crest, said: “We are disappointed that it has not been possible to make a success of Proper Welsh, but lower sales and higher costs mean it is not possible to operate the site economically. We will do all we can to help employees at the dairy who may be affected by these proposals. We will also work with customers to offer them alternative packing arrangements and ensure there is no disruption to their service.

“We remain committed to the Welsh dairy sector and are continuing to recruit farmers and invest in milk collection facilities around Carmarthen.”

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart said he was deeply saddened by the proposals.

Mr Hart said: “I am desperately sad that Dairy Crest were unable to make this venture work.

“The employees have worked incredibly hard and deserve a better outcome than this. It is frustrating that this has happened just before Christmas.

“I will do anything I can to help them find alternative work in the area and urge them to get in touch.”