Dairy farmers are ‘positive’ about Campbeltown Creamery’s future

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By Hannah O’Hanlon

Farmers who supply milk to Campbeltown Creamery are ‘positive’ that its award-winning range of dairy products have a future.

This comes the week after First Milk, the farmer-owned co-operative which owns the creamery, announced that it plans to scale-down operations in Campbeltown.

First Milk, which put its creameries in Campbeltown and Arran up for sale in April 2018 because they ‘were not core to its business strategy for the future’, last Wednesday announced the start of employee consultation in connection with proposed changes at both sites.

There are 29 farms across Kintyre and Gigha which supply milk to Campbeltown Creamery.

Discussions with local farmer members, with the active involvement of the Scottish Government, remain ongoing.

It is hoped the creamery will ultimately be owned by the local farmers, who, it is envisaged, will form a new co-operative to operate the creamery independently of First Milk.

Due to the ongoing economic performance of the Campbeltown site, and in anticipation that the scale of the operation is likely to change under this new ownership, First Milk began consultation with staff at Campbeltown about proposals to scale-down the operation.

A First Milk spokesman said this week that there are ‘potentially roles at risk’ as a result of the restructuring at the creamery, which has 25 employees.

James Barbour of Machribeg Farm, who is chairman of the Kintyre milk producers working group, said: ‘First Milk has worked hard to secure a sustainable future for the Campbeltown Creamery over the last 12 months. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to secure an external buyer and yet we believe it is important to retain processing capacity on Kintyre for the long-term security of the dairy farmers here. As a result, we are working together to try to secure the site for the future, although there is still considerable work to do to bring this to a conclusion.’

Despite significant effort over the last year, it has not been possible to sell the Arran site. As a result, employee are in consultation about First Milk’s plan to close the Arran Creamery, which has five employees and two dairy suppliers.

John Smith, of Drumalea Farm which supplies the creamery, chairman of NFU Scotland’s milk committee, said: ‘The news coming out of Arran and Campbeltown is extremely disappointing, especially for the staff and dairy farmers who will be affected by the decision.

‘There has been a cloud of doubt hanging over both factories for the past 15 months, since First Milk announced its intention to offload the creameries in April 2018, and this decision is unfortunately the outcome.’

But Linda McLean, of Kilmaho Farm, owner of The Kintyre Larder, who has worked promoting Campbeltown Creamery’s produce, is hopeful about its future.

She told the Courier: ‘There is a market and a demand for the products – they are the Larder’s best-selling items. We are positive that we will be selling it for a long time to come.’

Campbeltown Creamery’s range includes Mull of Kintyre cheddar, which comes in mature, extra mature and smoked varieties; Campbeltown Creamery cheddar; and Scottish Pride butter.

The products have won many awards in the past and have been for sale in UK supermarkets, including Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Morrisons and Aldi, as well as outlets across the world, including the USA and Canada.