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Firms unite to form French mega dairy

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French dairy firm Entremont has joined forces with Breton
co-operative Unicopa to form France's second biggest milk processor
as tough market conditions force industry consolidation, reports
Chris Mercer.

The new firm, Entremont Alliance, will collect 2.2bn litres of milk from around 9,000 producers. And, with more than 4,000 workers, plans to make 195,000 tons of cheese, 65,000 tons of milk powder.

"Faced with declining financial support in agriculture and tough markets that are becoming ever more competitive, this move is to safeguard the future of our businesses,"​ said the two groups in a joint statement.

If the new super firm gets approval from shareholders and French competition authorities, it will be France's second largest milk processor, tied with the Sodiaal co-operative and behind Lactalis.

Entremont will begin with overall control of the group, with Unicopa taking a 36.5 per cent stake. The new firm expects to make about €1.7bn in global sales.

Parmalat executives will stand trial

Parmalat founder Calisto Tanzi and 15 other company executives will stand trial later this year over their actions before the collapse of the Italian dairy firm in 2003, an Italian judge has ruled.

The 16 have, who will be tried in Milan, have been charged with covering up a €14bn hole in the company's accounts and fixing markets.

Auditors Deloitte & Touche, the former Italian partner of Grant Thornton and the Italian offices of Bank of America were also charged with helping Parmalat mislead investors.

Parmalat itself has recently undergone a re-birth under extraordinary commissioner Dr. Enrico Bondi. Italian authorities recently gave the firm permission to relist on the stock market - a move that could be on the cards for early autumn this year.

EU funds UK school milk project

UK industry association DairyUK will receive 50,000 for the EU to help fund a project aimed at encouraging more primary school children to drink milk.

The money will be handed down through the UK's Rural Payments Agency, and will promote the availability of school milk and the EU School Milk Subsidy.

Schools action packs, information on the nutritional benefits of milk and 'Fitness Friday' packs will be sent to more than 10,000 primary schools. Thousands of copies of a 'Teacher's Guide to Health and Fitness', DairyUK's recent publication, will also be sent out.

The project will be half-funded by DairyUK members and the UK's Milk Development Council. School Milk Week 2005, starting 10 October, will act as a focal point for the campaign.

The EU money is part of a €26 million package recently announced to promote agricultural products, including cheese, wine and vegetables, from 14 member states.

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