12 January 2001
Curry houses spice up dairy profit

By Johann Tasker and Wendy Owen

INDIAN restaurants offer an untapped source of income for struggling dairy farmers, claims a government-funded report which will be launched next week.

Producers should consider setting up a yoghurt processing plant to supply Asian curry houses and sweet shops, which use vast quantities of milk, it says.

The report is based on a study by Bradford Business Link. It will be launched in the city next Tuesday (16 January).

Bradford has more than 250 Indian restaurants and the market is expected to expand. The citys population is 16% Asian and forecast to grow to 25% by 2010.

Many Asian businesses buy milk from wholesalers. But the report says producers could boost farm profits by selling direct to customers themselves.

“No one can doubt the volume of yogurt that is purchased in Bradford, so the evidence points to a manufacturing plant being established to service demand.”

Yorkshire farmer Edward Bairstow has sold milk direct to Asian customers for 10 years. His farm is about eight miles from Bradford city centre.

Mr Bairstow told FARMERS WEEKLY: “It all comes down to giving a good-quality service; you need to nurse your customers if you are going to keep them.”

Mr Bairstow and his brother, Andrew, used to sell all the milk from their 40 cows to the Milk Marketing Board, until falling prices persuaded them otherwise.

They invested 20,000 in a processing plant and set up Eastlea Farm Dairies. The herd on the 150-acre farm at Wilsden has now increased to 70 cows.

Their involvement with the Asian community came by chance when Edward Bairstow was eating at a Bradford curry house.

He offered to supply the restaurant with milk and the business has since grown by word of mouth, with no advertising or marketing costs.

Mr Bairstow makes at least two daily deliveries of milk to Bradford. The plant now handles 1250 litres a day, which is sold to about 30 different outlets.

Mr Bairstow said: “The milk delivery business is definitely not for everyone; you need to enjoy talking to people and having a joke with them.

“I like the hustle and bustle of city life and it gets me away from the farm. I also believe this diversification has kept our business afloat.”

Iftkhar Hussain, a Punjabi restaurant owner and confectionery producer, buys milk from Mr Bairstow and supplies restaurants in London and Birmingham.

Mr Hussain uses about 1400 litres of milk each week. “Most of the popular confectionery is made from a basic recipe of milk boiled with sugar syrup,” he told FARMERS WEEKLY.