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Dairy takes on 25 farmers as prices for milk are rising

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: April 17, 2014

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RECENT milk price rises at the farm gate hint at a new era for dairy farmers in North Devon.

It appears after years of flat incomes and struggle they can think more positively about investment and the future.

And world demand for milk means the competition among buyers and processors is hotting up.

Last week the Farming Pages looked at the significance of the co-operative approach by Arla, Europe's biggest milk company. Today Richard Howe reports on a much smaller development in the county, but with big implications for those involved.

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The co-operative ethos has had a strong part to play in the development of Crediton Dairy which recently took on 25 farmers from North Devon. Those farmers represent 35 million litres of milk a year and were supplying Torridge Vale co-operative until last month.

The Credition operation is a private company rather than a co-operative but managing director, Tim Smiddy, said: "Although we're not a co-op we're more farmer-friendly than some of the other options.

"It's a privately owned business because at the time no co-op offered to buy it."

Tim was Milk Link's former finance director, and with his former chief executive, Neil Kennedy, led the management buy out of Crediton Dairy.

"We have a simple contract with dairy farmer suppliers," he said. "It's easy to work out our prices with a standard litre price that's competitive.

"The farmers we've recruited have been in the factory area and they can see what we're doing and how we're doing. As long as the contract is simple and the price competitive farmers like to support a local business."

The 25 new contracts are the result of a condition imposed when the Arla Foods merged with Milk Link in 2012. At that time the European Commission said Arla must sell Crediton Dairy to maintain competition in the long-life milk industry.

The business employs more than 100 people and is the only substantial liquid dairy left in Devon, producing flavoured and fortified chilled milk drinks, as well as long life milks and creams.

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