Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

Wexford denies boardroom split

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Wexford Creamery has rejected suggestions of a split at board level within the farmer co-op that is a major shareholder in the company.

A spokesman for the south-eastern milk processor said company chairman Nicholas Dunne had received the unanimous backing of the Wexford Creamery board at a meeting last week.

However, he conceded that Mr Dunne had just a single vote to spare when a confidence motion was put to a previous meeting of the 13-member board of Wexford Milk Producers (WMP).

WMP is a co-op which represents the 339 Wexford Creamery milk suppliers. It owns 70pc of the company, having bought a controlling stake from British firm Dairy Crest in the summer of 2010.

The British firm retained a 30pc stake in the company and continues to be a major customer for the cheddar cheeses that Wexford Creamery produces.

Farmers have been unhappy with the performance of the company since the 2010 purchase. Sharp increases in the price of butter relative to cheese resulted in Wexford Creamery being unable to match the milk prices paid by many other processors last year.

As part of a major drive to cut costs, Wexford Creamery secured an agreement with staff to reduce wages and personnel numbers and outsource the creamery's milk collection service.

There were also changes at management level, with the former financial controller Frank Ronan taking over as chief executive.

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However, it is understood that dissatisfaction over the pace of the reforms was a factor in the recent WMP board vote.

But a company source insisted that the restructuring programme was on track and that management were concentrating on getting costs right at the business.

He added that while Wexford processed 150m litres annually, the plant had the capacity to process 300m.

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