Demand for Cornish cheese leads to dairy industry boost

Growing UK public demand for Cornish speciality cheeses has helped lead to a boost from Objective One for Cornwall’s dairy industry.

A project to build a new dairy unit at Pengreep Farm at Ponsanooth, near Truro, has just been approved for European funding through the Programme and has been warmly welcomed by Objective One programme director Bill Bawden.

Mr Bawden said: “Although the rules on European funding are a little different for agriculture, this is an excellent example of how a private business can develop a project that benefits others within their sector. This project will help five other farms, as well as creating jobs and meeting demand for Cornish produce from across the UK.”

Pengreep’s new dairy unit will have the capacity to produce 300 tonnes of speciality, handmade cheese, leading to the creation of the equivalent of 14 new full time jobs. Much of the dairy’s production will initially be making Cornish Yarg – which is wrapped in stinging nettles, giving the product a genuine unique selling point and nation-wide appeal.

For the last six years, Ben and Catherine Mead from Pengreep Farm have been working with Michael and Margaret Horrell, developing cheese production at Lynher Farms & Dairies in East Cornwall, the home of Cornish Yarg. The project has been such a success that demand has outstripped supply over the past 18 months, leading to the need for the new unit and the confidence to invest.

A new collaborative company, Lynher Dairies Cheese Company has been established to market all the cheese produced by the two production units. The project will involve at least five farms in milk supply.

As the dairy expands so the need for more nettles will also increase. This season nettles are being picked from local farms as far afield as the Isles of Scilly. Pengreep say that one farming couple has earned enough money picking nettles to take a trip to Rome. In the longer term farmers will be involved in cultivating nettles for the cheese.

Catherine Mead is currently responsible for the marketing of Cornish Yarg at Lynher Dairies. She said: “Demand for Cornish Yarg from the specialist delicatessens, food service sectors and supermarkets nationally, has been outstripping supply.

“This is a distinctive Cornish brand and, at the moment, we can’t make enough of it! Expanding the dairy will also allow us to develop other speciality hand made cheeses.”

Support for the project has come from the County Council and a number of prominent players within the Cornish agricultural industry, as well as Tesco. The farms supplying the new dairy will do so through the Milk Link co-operative and benefit from a premium price paid by Pengreep.

Milk Link has provided some of the funding for the project as part of a policy of helping the small innovative businesses that are a vital part of their customer base. Milk Link says it is delighted to put funding into this business particularly as it is looking to select farms to supply milk for the Pengreep cheese production.

David Rodda, who leads the Objective One development team set up by Cornwall Agricultural Council, said: “The positive economic impact of the project is one of its main attributes. It will secure the demand for milk from local dairy farms and pay a premium for it. Jobs will be secured not only on these dairy farms but also on other neighbouring farms, which will be involved in growing nettles for Yarg production.”

He added: “The Cornish dairy sector is struggling at present due to the market price for milk being equal to or lower than its cost of production. The planned collaboration between a number of local farmers to supply both milk and nettles to the dairy has the potential to increase incomes from these holdings - as well as strengthening the position of Cornish dairy produce in the national market.”

Work on the new dairy has already started. The project comprises three phases of building and equipment installation over a six-year period. The majority of the building work will be completed in this first phase by September 2001.

The project has been approved for a grant of nearly £156,000 from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, with MAFF providing the same amount in match funding. The project will cost a total of just over £778,000, with the remaining funding being provided by Pengreep, and be phased over six years in line with production need.


Editors notes:

Jason Clark
Communications Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Tel:01872 241379
Fax:01872 241388