Dairy farmers in the north-east have rallied together to form a new organisation with a view to potentially building a new milk processing plant for the region. By: GEMMA MACKENZIE
The North-East Milk Producers Organisation comprises 26 farmers who produce a combined total of 54million litres of milk every year.
The group’s chairman Roy Mitchell, who farms at Drimmies Farm near Inverurie, said the organisation was formed in response to dairy giant Muller’s decision to close its Aberdeen milk processing plant last summer.
Closure of the plant has resulted in the bulk of the company’s suppliers in the region having to pay a transport levy of 1.75p a litre to have their milk transported south for processing.
At the time of the closure, 43 farmers were supplying the plant, however Mr Mitchell said an estimated 10 farmers have since left the industry and only 33 remain in the north-east.
He described the transport levy imposed by Muller as “unsustainable” and said it was costing the average farmer in the region up to £35,000 a year.
“The position Muller has put us in means we have had to look for alternatives,” added Mr Mitchell.
“Producer numbers have dwindled away and if we don’t do something that number is going to go down and down. We have to protect the dairy industry in this region and this is hopefully a way to do it.”
Mr Mitchell said the new farmer organisation was the natural next step on from work carried out by economic development agency Opportunity North East and Aberdeenshire Council into market options for north-east milk and the feasibility of building a new processing plant.
“Now it’s time to see if the farmers are interested,” said Mr Mitchell.
“All the farmers have put money in to help finalise the business plan. We want to look into the potential of building a new plant if the market is there for it.”
Source: Press & Journal