26-02-2013 11:39 AM | Dairy, Finance, News

Cheese plant closure threatens 70 jobs



A Canadian-owned cheese production plant in Carmarthenshire is set to close, affecting 70 jobs and its local suppliers.

The dairy plant in Newcastle Emlyn, West Wales, is owned by Saputo and manufactures cheese, milk, yogurt and other dairy products that are exported around the world.

The company said it was also closing another plant based in Heiden, Germany. Both the German and Welsh plant were bought by the company in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

"The past few years have been a learning and challenging experience," said a company spokesperson.

The firm's founder and chairman, Emanuele Saputo, told BBC Wales that the company had found the market for dairy products to be "marginal at best and highly competitive".

"We felt that the amount of time and energy it takes us to manage the business perhaps would be better utilised in other markets, where the margins are much more substantial."

NFU Cymru Deputy President Stephen James, a dairy farmer himself, said: "This news is undoubtedly a big blow to the area, as Saputo is a major employer in a very rural area of Wales. Our thoughts are with those whose jobs are at risk."

"This is a major worry for farmer suppliers of this company as they enter what will undoubtedly be a period of uncertainty for their business."

"Many will have been through difficult times previously with Dansco, stayed loyal to the plant and to the new owners, but will see this as a real kick in the teeth that after only a few years in Newcastle Emlyn Saputo looks like it is now pulling out, obviously leaving them in the difficult situation of finding a new purchaser for their milk."

With the potential loss of further processing capacity from one of the densest milk fields in Europe the NFU said it hoped that all efforts will be made to try to find a buyer for the plant.

Local assembly member Rhodri Glyn Thomas said he would be raising the matter with the Welsh government.

"Many farmers in west and south west Wales supply their goods to the plant."

"The importance of the site was widely recognised during the fight to secure the future of the former Dansco factory.

"It's imperative that all options are now explored to keep operations going and to keep workers in jobs - whether this is through finding a potential buyer or through a local co-operative model."

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