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First Milk investment soured by Wrexham’s fate

By Rod Addy+

20-Dec-2013

Work has begun on the Haverfordwest effluent treatment plant
Work has begun on the Haverfordwest effluent treatment plant

Dairy cooperative First Milk faced bitter sweet developments this week, with news of green investment in its Haverfordwest creamery in Pembrokeshire soured by confirmation it would close its Wrexham cheese packing plant.

The business said it had earmarked £5.4M for a new effluent treatment plant and £1.4M for the installation of new boilers, which run on clean-burn natural gas at the Pembrokeshire site.

The boilers replace heavy fuel oil units and would slash the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions by 3,500t a year, First Milk claimed.

Natural Resources Wales, an organisation dedicated to furthering environmental causes in Wales, is backing the project, aiming to make not just the creamery, but farms supplying it more eco-friendly.

The investment comes on top of £9M previously spent by First Milk at Haverfordwest, channelled into cheese making equipment, whey processing and cheese packing.

Further investments

Further investments at the creamery are being scoped out for 2014 and 2015, including plans to pump additional cash into increasing capacity to meet growing demand for cheeses.

However, the cooperative struck a more sombre mood as it confirmed plans, first announced in October , to close its Wrexham cheese packing plant at Maelor.

The decision was made after the termination of a contract with supermarket chain Asda, which accounted for 60% of production at the site.

231 jobs threatened

Following a consultation period, First Milk said it had to proceed with the move, which threatened up to 231 jobs, despite pleas for Asda to rethink from trades union Unite.

In October, Unite regional officer Tony Brady said the closure was a “betrayal of the people who have worked hard to make the site a success”.

“Following consultations with staff and unions, the site has been confirmed to close,” a First Milk spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk. “There is no confirmed date as yet.”

In October, First Milk said the Maelor plant was scheduled to close at the end of May next year. It is understood that all parties have worked hard to find alternative employment for affected workers.

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