Volatile sales are blamed for closure of 107-year-old dairy in East Durham

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VOLATILE milk sales are being blamed for the loss of 81 jobs at a 107-year-old dairy.

UK Dairy Sales will cease production at Rock Farm Dairy, in Wheatley Hill, amid a “volatile market” and competition from supermarkets.

Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson says the dairy is the biggest employer in the village and he is organising a jobs fair for those affected, as well as other unemployed of the village.

Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the Lincoln-based firm, said UK Dairy Sales will continue to trade elsewhere but added: “This was a strategic decision made for business purposes.
“With the volatile market we have at the moment it wasn’t viable to operate at Wheatley Hill.
“We obviously went through a consultation period with staff to see if there were any viable options we could go to that might avoid closure but unfortunately nothing came up but to cease production at the site.

“It’s very sad and disappointing that we had to make that tough decision – milk has been produced for 107 years at that site in various guises.

“But it’s been very difficult and very volatile trade conditions especially for the smaller processors in the area.

“There is excess of production capacity in the North East and the straw that broke the camel’s back was the prices being slashed in the supermarkets.”
He said there is no finalised date for the dairy to cease production as yet and arrangements are in place for all contracted customers not to have sales disrupted, as trade will continue, though not from the Wheatley Hill site.

“There has been huge competition and milk prices have been very volatile over the last three to six months,” he added.

“When the supermarkets decided to slash their prices overnight virtually, when servicing smaller customers competing against supermarkets was very, very difficult.”

Mr Wilson said: “It’s sad news for the 81 people who work there but also disappointing news for the village.

“It’s the biggest employer there, over half the people who work there live in the village itself.

“I have spoken to Durham County Council and Jobcentre Plus to see what we can do to find other jobs for people affected.”

He has organised a jobs fair for 2pm-4.30pm on July 4 at The Greenhills Centre, in the village’s Stephens Terrace.