By Farmers Weekly staff
A NEW co-operative expects to handle 16 million litres of organic milk a year, produced on about 40 Welsh farms, by the end of 2003.
Founder members of Calon Wen have already committed 5m litres.
At the official launch in Builth Wells, Powys, managing director, Roger Kerr, said the package included on-farm husbandry advice, seminars and workshops.
As well as guaranteeing a price of at least 29.5ppl for five years, Mr Kerr said Calon Wen could broker organic dairy conversion loans and schemes paying 0.5ppl during conversion.
Richard Tomlinson, vice chairman, said no other co-op was 100% committed to the marketing of Welsh organic milk.
The co-op is being backed by the Welsh Assembly, which has already agreed to an 11,000 pump-priming grant.
Milk Link, the new MM daughter co-op covering the south of England, has also announced an organic package, paying 1.55ppl to members for up to two years during the conversion period.
However, members have to commit supplies for three years after conversion, or repay the premium.
Milk Link will also pay 30.2ppl for organic milk from 1 April, based on 4.05% butterfat and 3.25% protein, Bactoscan band A+ and cell count band 1.
We are looking to sell milk on extended contracts, so it will last for an appreciable period of time, says the companys Simon Mercer.
The cost is being matched by customers keen to secure supplies.
Concerns were voiced at the Welsh launch over a possible weakening of the sector. Peter Segger, managing director of Organic Farm Foods said that consumer demand was growing at a phenomenal pace.
Farmers were in a powerful position if they worked together to resist direct and insidious attempts by retailers like Asda to cut prices.
Calon Wens chairman Dai Miles assured potential members that directors were talking to other buyers about co-operating.