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Dairy could fold if support doesn’t pick up

Shetland Farm Dairies manager Gerry Byers 'you either use it or lose it' - Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNews

THE MANAGING director of Shetland Farm Dairies has warned that if sale figures for local milk don’t pick up the islands’ small dairy industry might be gone in five years time.

Gerry Byers said the Gremista-based factory has lost around 20 per cent of business over recent months as hundreds of oil workers have left the islands, as well as due to the increased import of cheaper mass-produced milk by local supermarkets.

A £300,000 investment into a new computerised separator/pasteurise and standardiser unit, which would have made Shetland Farm Dairies one of the most modern dairy units in the UK, has now been postponed.

The company had already secured a 40 per cent grant funding commitment for the investment.

Byers said that during the months of February, March and April, around 20 per cent of local milk had to be poured down the drain.

Currently around 350 dairy cows produce 45,000 litres per week, supplying the local market with milk and a number of other dairy products.

When Byers arrived in Shetland five years ago to take over the reigns at Shetland Farm Dairies, the company, owned by the islands’ four dairy farms, was suffering from a poor reputation.

The issue of leaky milk containers was finally resolved when a new packaging line was installed, and a Facebook campaign made islander rally behind the co-operative.

However, the local support seems to have drained away again and Byers said the situation was critical.

“If sales don’t pick up I am concerned for the future of the dairy. You either use it, or lose it.

“And so often, we don’t realise what we have until we lose it.

“We must make the dairy work, as otherwise we will be completely dependent on imports,” he said.