Sunday, June 21, 2009

More News on the milk front......
Taken from an article in the Western Morning News....

Read it carefully.....Lubborn Cheese...makers of Somerset Brie and Capricorn Goats Cheese has been sold......TO THE FRENCH!!!!
Now don't get me wrong I love France and as many will know spend a lot of time there and have a tiny house there but .......sell out to the French!
There were apparently several British bidders but the recievers of course sell to the highest bidder....
Could it be that now we will see Lubborn Cheese close as uneconomic and further imports of 'President' brie take over? Or will Somerset Brie just be anonymous with President brand on it?
Will milk be imported from France.....who knows....
All this has been so under reported its not true......
The writer used to be the SW rep for the NFU.....unless there are 2 of them?
His assertion that

"In an ideal world, there would be only one dairy co-operative in Britain, big enough and strong enough to do business with the supermarkets and other major buyers on its own terms.The collapse of DFoB takes us halfway there."

just smacks of going back to the old Milk Marketing Board and its centrally fixed prices.....just like the Wool Marketing Board and you know how that monopolises prices and stops enterprise.....Yes the bigger farms will be ok but the small family farms will disappear and not a sound will be heard at their death....because most people will not know nor care, I could just sit and cry!
Come on all the folks out there.....those involved in transition towns, in permaculture, in going green, in becoming 'eco'........shout loudly about where your food comes from!

WHISPER it not in Haverfordwest, but the demise of the milk co-operative, Dairy Farmers of Britain, could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the sector as a whole.

That is not, for a moment, to deny the very real human and financial cost of the co-operative's collapse. Scores, possibly even hundreds, of workers in its liquid milk business, face losing their jobs.

The average DFoB farmer member stands to lose £14,000 for milk delivered in May and the first few days of June, for which he will not now be paid, as well as investment capital of £25,000.

For some of DFoB's smaller members in the more remote areas of Wales, who may find it difficult to identify an alternative buyer, it could even spell an end to milk production. In total, DFoB's 1,800 farmer members will be around £66 million worse off.

That is money that the producer side of the dairy industry can ill afford to lose.

But there is, most definitely, another way of looking at it, and it is a perspective that is much more comfortably adopted from a South West standpoint – given DFoB's relatively small presence in the region – than it would be in the co-operative's heartlands of Wales, the Midlands and the North. At a strategic level, a rationalisation of processing capacity and a further concentration among the producer co-operatives was exactly what was required.

The disappearance of DFoB provides both, albeit in singularly brutal fashion.

The South West dairy co-operative, Milk Link, has already snapped up one of DFoB's most prized assets – a state-of-the-art cheese plant at Llandyrnog in North Wales – for what one must presume was a knock-down price. That will reinforce Milk Link's position as the number one player in the cheese market and, in time, give a boost to its membership as well.

The other remaining co-operative, First Milk, which operates in Scotland and the North, will also be seeking to cherry-pick the best bits from the wreckage of DFoB, to its own and its members' advantage. And OMSCo, the organic milk co-operative, stands to pick up most, if not all, of DFoB's organic suppliers, which will leave it that much stronger, as well.

There will, of course, be casualties. DFoB's ageing liquid milk dairies are unlikely to find buyers. But for all but the people who work in those plants, that too has to be a good thing, given that there is surplus capacity in the liquid sector, and that it was paying too much for these factories that got DFoB into trouble in the first place.

DFoB's only processing plant in the South West is Lubborn Cheese, at Cricket St Thomas, near Chard. It is a small, modern factory, making first-class products, including the award-winning Somerset Brie. Talks have been going on for some time on a possible purchase by the French dairy giant Lactalis, and even as I was writing this, word came through that the sale (which is actually outside the receivership) had been completed.

That must be good for the South Somerset dairy farmers who supply the plant and who I know take a fierce pride in its products, although whether Somerset Camembert survives in the hands of a company famous for its Le President brand of that cheese remains to be seen.

Of course, those dairy farmers still stand to lose tens of thousands of pounds in unpaid milk and now worthless capital contributions.

But there is another side, even to that unpromising coin. DFoB members were being paid what was comfortably the lowest price in the industry. Since the emergency price cut imposed last November, it has been running at between 2p and 4p below the level offered by other comparable buyers. At a differential of 3p, a million-litre DFoB producer will have been £15,000 worse-off than a Milk Link member of the same size over the past six months.

That will now change. Milk is in short supply, and the larger DFoB members in the more accessible areas are being offered good money to sign up with alternative buyers. There is talk of Dairy Crest offering 24ppl in Somerset, and of Milk Link being prepared to pay Llandyrnog suppliers 23.5ppl.

Writing on one of the online farming forums, one DFoB member has worked out that he will have recouped his milk losses from the receivership by Christmas, thanks to the higher price being paid by his new buyer.

It is important to recognise that the demise of DFoB is not symptomatic of wider problems, either in the dairy industry in general, or the co-operative sector in particular. What started the rot was when the co-operative bought the ACC liquid milk business for almost twice what it was really worth. What finished it was the loss of what had been the ACC contract to supply milk into the Co-op.

The moral of the DFoB story is not that farmer co-operatives don't work, it is that badly run farmer co-operatives don't work.

During the same period that DFoB has been on the slippery slope to receivership, Milk Link has been going from strength to strength, thanks to good management, excellent products, a sound strategy and a loyal membership who are, at last, beginning to reap a return on all of the money and faith that they have invested in the co-operative during some distinctly bleak years.

In an ideal world, there would be only one dairy co-operative in Britain, big enough and strong enough to do business with the supermarkets and other major buyers on its own terms.

The collapse of DFoB takes us halfway there.

One can but hope that the next major step towards consolidation is taken on the basis of carefully considered choice, rather than of harsh necessity. Because while the sacrifice of DFoB's suppliers and staff may prove not to have been in vain, it remains a very real sacrifice, nonetheless.

Anthony Gibson is a freelance writer and may be contacted at anthony.gbsn@googlemail.com

2 comments:

Greentwinsmummy said...

I cant see why we cant have more protection for our regional products,it would be rather an embaressment if it took a french compnay to protect & save Somerset Brie,why are our local things so blumming undervalued by most folks arggg.Theres far more the shops could do I am sure.

I am umming & ahhing whether to alter our milk delivery(dad & V as girls & I have goat milk) from organic which is under the Country Life banner so UK but not local) to getting the Blackmore Vale milk,we have dairy crest at the moment deliver,I will have to ring them & see whats what I think.sadly then I will have the loathsome plastic bottles to deal with as I dont think BMV milk comes in the glass returnables we have at the moment
GTM x x x

Elizabeth M Rimmer said...

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