7 June 2002

First tankers at UMs Westbury plant

UNITED Milks new Westbury plant opened for production last Friday when the first tankers rolled into the site on schedule, nearly 30 months after building work began.

Milk volumes at the Wiltshire factory will build over the next few weeks through the commissioning period to 1.6m litres a day by the end of July, about 60% of the plants projected throughput. Peak production of 2.4m litres a day should be reached by October, the equivalent of 800m litres a year, or 5.5% of UK raw milk output.

The farmer-owned business plans to take about half its milk from 400 direct suppliers made up of farmer-shareholders and others. The remaining 400m litres of annual supply will come from co-ops, secondary suppliers and possibly some auction milk.

Negotiations are under way on the tenders submitted by co-ops with the aim of sealing the contracts soon once all the practicalities of supply have been thrashed out.

Until then which co-ops are involved will remain under wraps, although the official line from a United Milk spokesman was that the company was "in negotiations" with them all.

Don Morris, United Milks chief executive, said he was delighted with the response to the recent tender offer to supply the factory. Some big milk co-ops and several smaller outfits had pitched for business, and detailed discussions were under way to finalise supply contracts, he said. "These offers mean that, including our direct supply farms, we are assured of the milk we need to build capacity through the commissioning phase up to the autumn."

Butter, skim milk powder and cream will be supplied to manufacturers, and butter and powder will also be sold into intervention when market conditions dictate. At present commodity prices and exchange rates, both outlets would return more than 16p/litre to milk sellers, says the company. &#42

Lift off… The first milk arrives at United Milks Westbury plant, which will eventually process over 5% of the UKs output.