ARLA FOODS UK is to close two dairies next year as part of the rationalisation which began when the company was formed last autumn from the merger of Arla Foods and Express Dairies.

In a recent trading update coinciding with the end of its financial year, Arla said it intended to shut the Ruislip site in West London in January and its Newcastle-upon-Tyne plant in May.

More than 400 jobs will go in this second and final phase of its factory closure programme.

The company denied rumours circulating in parts of the industry that the move would lead to more imports of dairy products.

“These are liquid milk sites, and we don‘t import any liquid milk,” said a spokeswoman. Other factories will take up the 325m-litre capacity of the two sites, she added.