24 April 1998
Southern Milk clashes with new Woodgate owners

By Catherine Hughes

THE main suppliers of Sussex-based Woodgate Dairies, Southern Milk Partnership, are threatening to withhold their milk supply after a disagreement with its new owners, Express.

Sixty-year-old Woodgate Dairies was bought by Express for £17 milion in February this year – the first acquisition since its demerger from Northern Foods. The company plans to supply Woodgate from its own Express Milk Partnership.

But the members of SMP, who have supplied Woodgate since vesting day and now total 60 members supplying 60m litres of milk, are furious about the move because they had raised £20m but were not invited to bid.

Raymond Foster, manager of SMP, said: “Our members will not join the EMP because there is nothing to be gained. We have always had a better price than them nearing the top of the league table.

“We want assurances from the partnership about their conditions or else we will stop supplying the dairy if a fair deal is not struck,” he said.

“We are a farmer co-operative and we do not want to be absorbed by EMP and lose our identity. We believe in farmer co-operatives and we want to stay as one. That was the basis on which we were formed.

“We do not want to supply just one company; we want to supply who ever we want. We do not want all our eggs in one basket,” he said.

A spokesperson for Express said it was unaware that SMP was supplying the dairy and that they hoped to get them on board.

  • For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 24-30 April, 1998

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