From http://www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk/news ... e.28537380
A FEASIBILITY study is currently underway which could determine the future of First Milk's Campbeltown Creamery.
There has been concern among dairy farmers in Kintyre and Bute over falling cheese production and recurring rumours that the creamery could be sold.
These fears have been further compounded by reports that the milk produced by First Milk members on Bute is now being sent on a 320-mile round trip to First Milk's Aspatria operation, south of Carlisle, instead of to Campbeltown.
A steering group of Kintyre producers called for the feasibility study to be carried out, with the cost being split 50-50 by Argyll and Bute Council and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Board.
Also helping facilitate the study is Fergus Younger, head of the Argyll and Bute agricultural forum. The consultant appointed to do the job is Hamish Renton of HRA marketing consultants. NFU Scotland's regional manager for Argyll and the Islands, Lucy Sumsion, explained: "The marketing difficulties being encountered by First Milk and the unsustainable milk price being paid to its members are already well documented.
"Given the huge importance of the co-op's Campbeltown Creamery to the farming communities of Kintyre, Gigha and Bute, and the role it plays in the wider economy of Argyll and the Islands, it is a sensible and prudent step for farmers to develop a business plan that would look at all the options for dairying in the region.
"Dairy farmers are heavily involved in that process, funding has been secured, a consultant appointed and NFU Scotland is assisting with administration."
With the study still in its early stages, those directly involved have reportedly been 'gagged' from talking to The Scottish Farmer. First Milk was also reluctant to speak. Co-op press spokesman Lee Truelove added: "The study is being carried out independent of First Milk but we will co-operate fully when called upon.".
Mr Truelove also confirmed that Bute milk was going to the co-op's Lake District creamery at Aspatria, and stressed that there was nothing unusual in this, as Bute was part of the mainland balancing pool rather than the cheese pool.
Asking not to be named, a Kintyre producer said: "We are all deeply concerned regarding the future for Campbeltown. Our price is bad enough, but if we don't have a creamery the future would be really bleak.
"The major problem for Campbeltown is one of marketing. More cheese should be being produced at the creamery - the reason it is not is because sales have been dropping. Even our famous Mull of Kintyre brand was missing from the supermarket shelves for a while.
"If The Scottish Farmer wasn't being marketed properly, it wouldn't be selling as many copies as it does. Campbeltown needs a proper marketing effort and that has not been happening.
Perhaps it would be different if the creamery was in different hands."
Bute producer Robert Macintyre added: "The Bute milk should be going to Campbeltown, not over the Border to Aspatria. It is wrong that it is travelling all that distance.
"The sales team at First Milk have not been performing well, that's why the tonnages of Campbeltown cheese have been falling," claimed Mr Macintyre.
"The future for Bute dairy farmers and those in Kintyre depends on Campbeltown. Without it we are all finished. Campbeltown has to survive."