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East Anglian dairy farmers hit by Müller’s decision to close Chadwell Heath depot

PUBLISHED: 11:42 03 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:42 03 March 2017

Margaret Vale, who farms near Beccles.

Margaret Vale, who farms near Beccles.

Archant

Dairy firm Müller plans to pull the plug on its East Anglia milk supply network as part of a major restructure.

The move affects 18 dairy farmers across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent.

Farmers were invited to a meeting with Müller about two weeks ago at Brome Grange Hotel near Eye where it outlined its plans.

Dairy Crest sold its dairies operations to Müller UK & Ireland Group in December 2015, and in January of this year, Müller Milk & Ingredients confirmed it would go ahead with plans to invest £60m to upgrade its network of fresh milk and ingredients dairies in Britain, while winding down operations at its dairy in Chadwell Heath in north east London over 15 months.

A spokesman for Müller said: “With operations due to cease at Chadwell Heath, unfortunately this will have an impact on the farmers currently supplying the dairy. We have been working closely with the 18 farmers in the affected area to review their options.

“This includes the opportunity for them to supply an alternative milk purchaser. Our focus has been to find a solution where this group of farmers will not be disadvantaged.”

Farmer Margaret Vale, whose family dairy farm business, E S Burroughs, is based in the Waveney Valley at Aldeby, near Beccles, was at the Brome meeting.

The Burroughs dairy farm, which keeps 340 cows, mainly Fresians, invested heavily around two or three years ago in modernising its operation and has supplied Müller/Dairy Crest for the past seven years.

She said they had been “surprised” at the news, but that under the plans outlined, Müller said it was looking into what it could do for its farmer suppliers, with the aim of giving them 12 months’ notice from the end of March.

As a result, the Burroughs family have signed a deal to supply Arla, another dairy firm, instead, and will be leaving Müller at the end of the month. “The thing of it is they are shutting the Chadwell depot in London and saying our milk will be too expensive to transport anywhere else,” said Mrs Vale. However, they did wonder about the future after the Chadwell decision, she said. “I think we all thought: ‘Are they going to want our milk?’”

Andrew McInnes, boss at Müller Milk & Ingredients, said in January the Chadwell closure plans were “unavoidable”.

“It is clear that the dairy at Chadwell Heath is no longer economically viable and in an environment where there is simply too much fresh milk processing capacity, we simply cannot justify the level of investment required for the complete overhaul and modernisation required at the site,” he said.

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