Producers threaten to quit creamery over price cut

Dairy farmers supplying the Saputo mozzarella cheese creamery in Wales are threatening to move to another buyer unless the firm reverses a 2p/litre price-cut.

More than half of the processor’s 70 suppliers protested outside the creamery in Camarthenshire, west Wales, on Monday (1 June) over the price they are paid for milk.

Saputo has told producers, who are paid 2.8p/litre less than Glanbia for its mozzarella plant at Caernarfon, they would not be penalised for breaking their contracts.

“The company’s headquarters in Canada had agreed we would not face penalties if we sent our milk somewhere else,” said dairy farmer Hugh Thomas of Nant e Castell, Llwyndrain. 

“Judging from what people said on the day, Saputo could lose 36 suppliers and over 30m litres of milk.”

Mr Thomas, whose milk sales income has fallen by £4000 a month after the latest price cut on 1 May, said potential new milk buyers had been asked to supply information about requirements and prices for a meeting planned for Wednesday (3 June).

Another supplier said switching buyers would be difficult for many producers as they wanted the creamery to survive.

Many of the firm’s milk suppliers had stuck with the company after former creamery owners Dansco had been forced to sell the plant, despite 120 of them still being owed money.

The supplier said he had lost £20,000 when Dansco was forced to call in administrators, but one producer was owed £97,300.

“Nobody wants to see this plant close with the loss of over 80 jobs, but none of us can afford to subsidise it until commodity prices improve,” he said.

“Our production costs have continued rise but the milk price has fallen 6p to around 19p/litre since January.”