Mothballing the Arla creamery at Llandyrnog should not mean the end of dairy processing at the site, according to Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd.
He made his comments after a meeting with the Arla group, a multinational cooperative owned by farmers throughout Europe, at the site today.
The consultation with the workforce of 100 ended on Monday and individual discussions will end later this month. A jobs fair involving 20 local firms with vacancies is being held in August for staff looking to find work locally with a small number of other workers and apprentices potentially relocating to other Arla plants in Scotland and Devon.
Mr Gruffydd said: “It’s clear that there is a great deal of uncertainty both in the dairy processing sector and more generally due to Brexit and that is holding back any longer-term decision on the future of the site. I’m slightly reassured that the site will be maintained by a skeleton staff so that it can resume production in the future, even if it’s a different product to the hard cheese currently being made.
“I’m keen to ensure that we keep all possible options open at this stage given the important added value that food processing brings to the farming sector. We desperately need to move away from just extracting raw materials here in Wales, and growing our own processing capacity has to underpin a high-quality food and drinks sector in Wales.
“Welsh milk has a very high protein and fat content, which is ideal for cheese and butter. I’m keen to work with farmers and cooperatives such as Arla to move in that direction. I accept that, until a decision is made by Arla, then it’s difficult to make definite plans in terms of the future of the site and any possible Welsh Government intervention. But, when a longer-term decision is made for Llandyrnog, it’s clear that the Welsh Government will need to provide a political lead.
“Many of us will remember how the former Dairy Crest processing site stood dormant for nearly a decade in south west Wales years ago and we must avoid a similar fate for Llandyrnog at all costs.”
Mr Gruffydd thanked Arla representatives for the opportunity to discuss future plans and pledged his support for any initiative that would deliver jobs and a stronger economy in rural areas such as the Vale of Clwyd.