Stranraer cheese plant facing supply threat

Lactalis plant in Stranraer
Lactalis plant in Stranraer

Lactalis, owner of the Caledonian Cheese Company and McLelland Cheese Packing on Commerce Road in Stranraer could be facing a looming crisis in its milk supply after local producers look elsewhere for better prices per litre that Lactalis are prepared to pay.

The price Lactalis pays its dairy farmers is set to rise to 25p per litre in November, but many want at least 30p per litre to be viable are prepared to resign and link up with companies who can guarantee them a sustainable income.

A spokesperson for Lactalis defending its pricing policy this week, saying: “Lactalis has implemented six consecutive months of increases and continues to be committed to paying a competitive milk price. This follows a period when UK milk prices returned to farmers have been at unsustainably low levels. The market now needs to respond positively to changes in the balance of supply and demand to support the dairy supply and ensure availability of great quality cheese, like Seriously Strong and Galloway produced in Stranraer.”

Chairman of the company’s Milk Suppliers Association, Rory Christie, from Dourie Farm, Port William, commented: “The fundamental culture of down shifting risk to the dairy farmer must change. If not, dairy farm numbers will continue to fall, there will be a loss of diversity of system and ultimately the consumers will face a loss of choice in the shelf. The economic viability of Wigtownshire relies heavily on the multiplier effect created by our dairy farmers.

“Those farmers do not want hand outs, only a fair working environment that allows them to do good business. If multinational retailers and processors do not genuinely engage in delivering supply chain equality then Wigtownshire’s and Scotland’s rural economic viability will slide downward in ever decreasing circles.”

Earlier this week, Lactalis announced it has won a multi-million pound contract to supply Lidl with own label mature cheddar and extra mature cheddar from the end of October 2016. Lidl products will be produced, cut and packed, locally in Stranraer.

Mike Chatters, Lactalis Sales Director said: “We are delighted to win this contract which will use locally produced milk from family farms to supply one of the fastest growing retailers in the UK. We hope to see the business grow and to renewing and enlarging this supply agreement in the future.”