Farmers’ bid to take over Campbeltown Creamery fails

A bid by a group of farmers to take over their local creamery, saving it from closure has failed due to a lack of retail support.

The group of 29 farmers had already won the support of thousands of members of the public, raising tens of thousands of pounds through an online fundraising campaign.

A spokesman for the group said: “We have been blown away by the phenomenal generosity and support we have received throughout this project.

“However, we also needed a number of other things to fall into place for our buy-out to succeed and unfortunately, this hasn’t happened.

We are so grateful to everyone who has helped and encouraged us at every turn and are gutted that we are unable to take this process any further.

In a video posted online, two of the farmers behind the bid (pictured top) claimed they were “unable to gain enough retail support” to make the business plan viable had been the death-knell for the takeover and explained that those who had backed the fundraiser will be refunded.

Campbeltown Creamery closure

Following the news, First Milk announced it would launch an employee consultation about its proposed intention to close its Campbeltown Creamery. It puts the jobs of 14 members of staff at risk.

The Campbeltown Creamery was put up for sale in April 2018 following a restructure at First Milk. Despite significant effort over the last 18 months, no buyer was found.

When it became clear that a sale to a third party was unlikely, the local Kintyre farmers launched a plan to take over the creamery.

Despite considerable work to find a way to take the business forward, especially from their steering group, advisers, the Scottish Government and our colleagues at Campbeltown Creamery, unfortunately, they have not been able to find a financially viable long-term business plan for the creamery.

Shelagh Hancock, First Milk chief executive, said: “We are disappointed that it has not been possible to conclude a sale of Campbeltown Creamery.

We fully appreciate that this decision has significant consequences for colleagues at the creamery and the local community, but it is important that we act in the best interest of the wider business and our farmer members and continue with the solid progress we have made in strengthening and developing First Milk.

“We regret the impact this decision will have on our colleagues and are committed to treating those affected fairly and with consideration during this difficult time.

“Throughout the last 18 months, we have been in regular dialogue with our local members on Kintyre about the future of the site.

“Nothing will change in respect to their co-operative membership of First Milk, and we will continue to collect and pay for their milk on the same basis as before going forward.”

‘It was the right thing to do’

James Barbour, chairman of the Kintyre steering group, added: “It was the right thing to investigate all avenues to see if we could keep the creamery open in Kintyre.

There was widespread enthusiasm from the local farmers to try to secure the future of the site and genuine support from First Milk, the Scottish Government and the local community, along with a successful crowdfunding campaign.

“Despite all of this we were not able to find a financially viable long-term solution for the creamery. I would like to thank everyone who has supported us through this period.

‘Harsh economic reality of processing’

John Smith, NFUS dairy chairman and local Kintyre dairy farmer, said: “My heart goes out to all the staff that work at the creamery and it is regrettable that the Mull of Kintyre brand that we have passionately supported will now no longer be available.

That is due to the harsh, economic reality of processing milk in an incredibly tough dairy industry that has witnessed so many casualties at both farm and processing level in recent times.

“Whilst this is very disappointing news, it is reassuring that all of the local farmers are members of First Milk and will continue to benefit from being part of a national co-operative with an evergreen contract and continuing to have their milk collected in the future.”