Welsh cheese plant closure a ‘hammer blow’

The proposed closure of a Carmarthenshire cheese factory would be a “hammer blow” to dairy farmers in the area, the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has warned.

The warning comes after the Canadian owner – Saputo – of the Newcastle Emlyn factory launched a 30-day consultation period this week (Monday 25 February) to shut the plant.

The factory employs 70 staff and buys milk from approximately 80 producers to produce mainly mozzarella for the food ser-vice market.

The company said the Welsh plant’s closure, along with that of a cheese manufacturing plant in Heiden, Germany, would allow it to concentrate its efforts and resources in current platforms and other markets.

The plant was bought by Saputo in 2007, after previous owner Dansco went into administration.

At the time, jobs were shed as milk intake to the plant reduced when farmers severed contracts after disputes with Dansco over milk payments.

FUW vice-president Brian Walters, who runs a dairy farm on the outskirts of Carmarthen, said ­suppliers would be forced to find alternative buyers for their milk at short notice. It would create downward pressure on the price they could expect to receive in the future, he added.

Farmer supplier Huw Thomas, who milks 250 cows at Nantycastell, Llwyndrain, Pembrokeshire, said the news had come as a big shock to suppliers in the area.

“It’s going to affect everyone really. We are very disappointed that they have decided to close – it’s one less buyer out there.”

Contract terms meant the company was committed to taking suppliers’ milk for 12 months, and a three-month notice period to leave was still required, he believed.

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