Battle intensifies to save 70 cheese manufacturing jobs

By Lorraine Mullaney

- Last updated on GMT

Efforts are intensifying to save jobs at Saputo’s troubled cheese manufacturing plant in Camarthenshire
Efforts are intensifying to save jobs at Saputo’s troubled cheese manufacturing plant in Camarthenshire
Welsh Assembly Member Rhodri Glyn Thomas is battling to preserve the future of Saputo’s troubled cheese manufacturing plant in Camarthenshire.

Canadian cheese processor Saputo announced the proposed closure of its Welsh site last month (February 25) with the loss of 70 jobs.

Thomas has met the Welsh government’s minister for business to discuss the options available to secure the future of the factory and its employees.

A spokesman for Thomas told that there were now eight parties interested in taking on the business.

However, not all of the interested parties wanted to take on the site. South Caernarfon Creameries, for example, has expressed an interest in purchasing the milk from local farmers but not in taking on the processing unit.

The spokesman would not name the other parties.

Stop job losses

Thomas said in a statement: “This is encouraging news for local producers and I have contacted local farming unions to bring this development to their attention.

“Ultimately, I want to ensure the highest possible retention of employment within the Newcastle Emlyn area and will continue to do all I can to stop as many job losses as possible.”

Many farmers in west and south west Wales supply milk to the Saputo plant, which makes a range of Mozzarella and blends of shredded and diced cheeses for pizza toppings in the foodservice sector.

Saputo bought the Newcastle Emlyn site from Dansco Dairy Products for more than £5M in 2007.

Thomas said: “The importance of the site was widely recognised during the fight to secure the future of the former Dansco factory.

‘Disappointing news for the employees’

“It is very disappointing news for the employees at Saputo and the wider rural industry.”

Saputo said the closure of the plant was part of its wider strategy to improve its operational efficiency.

It has described its attempts to penetrate the European market as “a learning and challenging experience”.

It has also announced the closure of its cheese manufacturing facility in Heiden, Germany – which makes Italian speciality cheeses for retail.

A company statement said: “The Saputo European business does not have sufficient critical mass to be profitable and the company does not see short- to mid-term opportunities to ensure such profitability. Saputo has, therefore, decided to close its Germany plant and proposes the closure of its United Kingdom facility, subject to the consultation period, to further concentrate efforts and resources in its current platforms and other markets.”

Last week (March 14) it announced the proposed closure of its manufacturing facility in Québec, Canada, in June 2014 with the loss of 100 jobs. Production will be integrated into other facilities.

In 2009 Saputo halved the workforce at the Camarthenshire plant​ in response to depressed cheese prices and milk supply restrictions.

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