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Creamery Future

It'S ALL hands on deck to secure the long-term future of First Milk's Campbeltown creamery and milk production in the area.

At a meeting of NFU Scotland's Kintyre branch, held on Tuesday evening, around 40 members turned out to discuss the difficult situation within the sector at the moment and to look at what can be done to drive positive change.

NFUS president, Allan Bowie, who chaired the meeting, listened to producer concerns and ideas, and agreed to relay those back in person to First Milk officials.

Milk production and the creamery are hugely important to the economy of the area.

The future of the creamery has received a boost with £450,000 funding recently secured from Scottish Government to install badly-needed new boilers within the plant.

Backing their product, the new 'Kintyre Cheese? Yes Please!' campaign was launched by local farmers earlier in the day at the town's local Co-operative store to encourage the region to keep supporting dairy farmers and buy local cheese such as Mull of Kintyre.

Following the appointment of Mike Gallacher as the new chief executive of First Milk, while there is a desire from the local dairy farmers to continue to work with First Milk, they seek significant improvements in their relationship with the company and want a more open and transparent dialogue with the co-op.

Local producer, Robert Millar, High Cattadale, told The Scottish Farmer: "While there is a euphoria amongst local producers from Scottish Government support for creamery improvements, and the re-launch of Mull of Kintyre cheese, there was a feel good factor at the meeting but we are far from being out of the woods.

"I am currently being paid 17p a litre from the co-op for my milk and when we get paid for our April milk in May, how little we are being paid will hit home. The situation is likely to continue for another six months.

"A First Milk director has apparently said they can't rule out further price cuts. If that is true, the picture is really bleak."

Also attending the meeting was First Milk director, Jim Baird, and Fergus Younger, of Argyll Agricultural Forum.

The main objectives put forward were to continue with the new campaign and push for a re-branding of Mull of Kintyre Cheddar, with a strategic marketing plan drawn up by First Milk that targets local markets and also sales nationally and internationally.

Objectives also included working with First Milk to ensure the promised investment from the Scottish Government in Campbeltown creamery is put in place as quickly as possible.

At the meeting, Mr Younger presented a scenario planning report, which had been requested by local dairy farmers at a meeting earlier this year.

The report looked at the long-term options for the future of the creamery. While it scoped out several scenarios for the future of the Campbeltown plant, it was agreed that the short-term focus remained on keeping the creamery open and working with First Milk to build the Mull of Kintyre brand.

David Bolt, the union's Kintyre branch chairman, said: "There are lots of positives that have come out of the meeting and a lot of good suggestions were brought to the floor.

"We want to work with First Milk, get more clarity on the current situation and look for it to improve its communication with its members."

NFUS president, Allan Bowie, said: "This was a positive meeting, and the local farmers justifiably want to push for more effective marketing of the great cheese they make here.

"The response from local shoppers to the samples of Mull of Kintyre cheddar we provided backs that up. We need First Milk to do more to ensure that Scottish, UK and international consumers have the chance to buy this fantastic quality cheese."

Source: - 10 April 2015