6 March 2001
South-west urged to join Milk Link

By Robert Harris

HUNDREDS of farmers across Devon and Cornwall have been urged to resign from direct milk supply contracts and join southern co-op Milk Link.

Representatives of six groups which make up Westcountry Milk Producers (WMP) have recommended their 780 members should transfer milk as soon as possible.

WMP farmers produce about 500m litres of milk a year, mainly to big dairy processing companies such as Dairy Crest and Glanbia.

It is unclear when transfer will occur. WMP manager Bryan Lewens said: “We are talking to companies so we can manage the transfer to the best effect.”

Milk Link chief executive Barry Nicholls said the WMP move endorsed his companys plans to restructure along European-style co-operative lines.

Full details of the proposals will be released in April, said Mr Nicholls. He added: “We hope other groups will follow their lead.”

Milk Links 3000 members sell about 1.4bn litres of milk a year. If all WMP members join, it will have almost 2bn litres – about 14% of UK raw milk.

A series of meetings putting the plan to members has been postponed due to the foot and mouth crisis. But farmers will receive further details this month.

This is the latest move by direct milk suppliers to move back to co-ops.

At the end of February, representatives of midlands-based Association of Milk Producers, with 700m litres of milk, voted to join the Milk Group.

In January, the Association of Dairy Farmers in the north announced their intention to switch 1.5bn litres of milk to Axis and Scottish Milk.