Cumbrian cheese plant stalks producers

PLANS TO build a new Cheddar cheese factory in west Cumbria are behind schedule after a trademark dispute, but efforts to enlist producers have been redoubled.


Managing director Ronald Akkerman told FARMERS WEEKLY that the trademark issue had been solved by changing the co-ops’ name from Lakeland Dairy Farmers Ltd to West Lakes Cheese Company Ltd.


But the delay was likely to put back the opening of the £44m factory to the end of next year, several months beyond the original April target.


The board is now pushing to recruit farmers to supply 250m litres by the opening date, and is planning meetings to explain the business plan.


The board has also appointed two more directors to organise recruitment, including Steve Satherley, once operations director at United Milk.


Their task is to persuade farmers to part with a £1000 non-refundable joining fee, mainly to help pay for due diligence studies.


Farmers will have to agree to a 5p/litre guarantee to provide equity for the factory, though grant funding could alleviate this.


“We expect to get critical mass – enough farmers to supply 150m litres – within the next three months,” Mr Akkerman said.


The remaining £26m of funds will come from bank borrowing.


The Milk Development Council has issued a document on its website (www.mdcdatum.org.uk) today (July 8) to help farmers who are considering investing in the PiC project.

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