Three-way split on as Marque members vote

5 November 1999




Three-way split on as Marque members vote

By Liz Mason

MILK Marque members were expected to vote in favour of splitting the company into three regional co-operatives at a special general meeting held yesterday (Thurs) – after farmers weekly went to Press.

Senior Milk Marque officials made the prediction while giving evidence to a Commons agriculture select committee inquiry on the future of milk marketing.

Milk Marque bosses were confident that the necessary two-thirds majority vote would be achieved for the proposal to break-up into three independent co-operatives serving the North, the Midlands and the South.

Poul Christensen, Milk Marque chairman, told MPs that, with one or two minor exceptions, members had shown overwhelming support for the plan at meetings across the country. "My feeling is that there is clearly a reluctance about the route we are going down but there is wholehearted support for it," he said.

Paul Beswick, Milk Marque managing director, said the co-op would still pursue a judicial review of the "fundamentally flawed" Monopolies and Mergers Commission report which had led to the break up.

Milk supply

The new co-operatives will each have a milk supply of 1.5bn litres each – about 14% of the England/Wales market. "These are going to be £300m a year turnover businesses and they will have to cut their cloth accordingly," said Mr Beswick.

"One of the requirements of the DTI is that they will be independent and there will be no joint processing ventures. We will go along with that, but it is unfortunate."

Asked whether the new co-ops would be strong enough to acquire their own processing facilities Mr Beswick said they would have "to assess if they want to do it and find the funding."

Independence

The new co-ops must be independent of one another, and of Milk Marque, as quickly as possible. Milk Marque assets, possibly including the processing factories in Wales and Somerset, would be valued independently and handed to the new businesses. But Milk Marque would continue to provide central milk testing and some computer systems until March 31.

Milk Marque producer contracts would be handed to the successor co-operatives and from then on it would be up to them how they determine their policies, said Mr Beswick.


See more