A group of north-east dairy farmers are on the brink of securing their futures this week as they attempt to nail down the final details of a milk processing plant in Aberdeenshire.
An announcement is expected within days that 14 producers, who will be left without a milk buyer in just 10 months’ time, have secured the backing for both an evaporation plant and buyers for their end products.
In October the group of 14 were given 12 months’ notice by Muller that their contracts would end in November 2020 because liquid milk production in Scotland had far exceeded consumption, and despite farmers contributing to transport costs to haul the milk south, the company said the business was no longer sustainable.
An evaporation plant, which it is estimated would cost around £2.5 million, would remove 90% of the milk liquid, and mean that the end products of cream and skim milk could be transported more efficiently and cheaply throughout Scotland or the UK.
However farmers will have to accept a price cut for their milk.
Group spokesman Roy Mitchell, who farms near Inverurie, said yesterday he hoped they would have gone through the “final hoops” to secure the agreement of all the farmers involved by the end of the week.
“We’ve got a milk processor interested and farmers interested, and Scottish Government is interested in supporting us with a farm processing and marketing grant,” he said.
“We’ve also got someone who wants to buy the end products of cream and skim powder, and we want it to be used here in the north-east where there are plenty of bakeries and food manufacturers.”
Mr Mitchell added the stakes were high: “If it’s not up and running by November 30 it’s not looking great for milk production in the north-east, because there are no other buyers.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the impact of Muller’s recent decision on certain farmers in the north-east and are working with potential partners to help find a viable solution that can be fully supported by the local farmers and could lead to a positive outcome for all parties.”