Dairy Farmers of Britain has gone into receivership, ending months of speculation over the future of the troubled milk co-operative.
PricewaterhouseCoopers was announced as receiver and manager for the £562m turnover company on Wednesday. It takes control of a business with 2,200 employees, 1,800 farmer members and a 10% share of UK milk production.
Difficult trading conditions in the liquid business had been at the heart of the company’s troubles, meaning DFB had been unable to identify a way forward and pay an economic milk price, according to joint receiver and PwC partner Stephen Oldfield.
“My team and I will be focusing all our initial efforts in working with the DFB key suppliers and customers to keep the daily collection and supply of milk flowing,” Oldfield said, adding that the receivers hoped to be able to collect and distribute “the vast majority” of the co-operative’s milk.
PwC also hoped to find buyers for the group’s hard cheese and liquid businesses and secure as many jobs as possible, Oldfield said.
DFB has suffered a number of major setbacks over the past few months. In October it cancelled a £1.75m half-yearly payment on members’ accounts, fuelling speculation the business had run into trouble. This was followed by a succession of high-profile departures, culminating in chief executive Andrew Cooksey quitting in April.
The closure of two dairies in winter and the loss of a major contract to supply The Co-operative Group added to DFB’s woes.
“What is most important now is that the supply chain is maintained through to our consumers, that jobs are saved and that there is a home for our members’ milk,” said DFB chairman John Grantchester. “We will do whatever is appropriate to assist the receivers in achieving this outcome.”