By Vicky Houchin
MILK Marque members have voted almost unanimously in favour of board proposals to split the company into three regional co-ops today (Thursday).
More than 600 members attended the meeting in Malvern, Worcestershire, representing just under 500 businesses.
Speaking after the meeting, Milk Marque member Alec Glass said that the number who had voted against the split could be counted on two hands.
As a result of this announcement, three new co-operatives will be set up to start trading from 1 April, 2000.
Poul Christensen, Milk Marque chairman welcomed the verdict, saying it was a historic day for the British dairy industry. “Members have shown their commitment to build a new future.
“The radical steps we have taken give our members the commercial freedom they need to meet the challenges of todays market place and to find new ways of doing business.”
Mr Christensen said it was now time to put the past behind and look beyond the traditional division between producer and processor to create a new industry based on partnership, ready to face the global challenges ahead.
“It is only by working together in large, market-focused groups that farmers can provide the quality, service and value needed to flourish.”
Philip Hudson, milk adviser at the NFU echoed Mr Christensen by welcoming the news.
The timetable would be very tight to get the new co-operatives up and running by April, he said.
“But now the vote had been passed they have made a very significant step.”
Members will now have the task of voting in their board directors.
It is not certain how many of the old Milk Marque board will move to the new companies, although a Milk Marque spokesman confirmed that a number of board members had put themselves forward.