Isle of Wight milk producers David Harvey, left, and Justin Birch. Picture by Robin Crossley.
MILK producers have formed a co-operative to try to keep the Isle of Wight’s ailing dairy industry alive.
The Island’s 16 dairy farms want 70 per cent of the 20 million litres they collectively produce each year to be sold locally — rather than the current 20 per cent level — to cut the crippling cost of transporting it across The Solent and meet growing local demand for the product.
The farmers and Arreton-based Rew Valley Dairies, which processes three million litres of Island milk each year, have formed a co-operative to sell milk under one brand — Isle of Wight Dairy Farmers.
The new initiative, to run hand-in-glove with the I Love Island Milk campaign, is due to be launched on November 5.
The co-operative hopes to get all the major supermarkets on the Isle of Wight to join Tesco’s lead in stocking its milk.
Shalfleet dairy farmer Justin Birch, who chairs the new company’s committee, said he ws confident the business would grow quickly and was delighted by the willingness of all parties to make it work.
"Producing and shipping milk across The Solent is unsustainable. We want to turn our disadvantage into an advantage," said Mr Birch.
"So far, we have a commitment from three other supermarkets to sell it, pending legal issues, which is encouraging. We aim to give the consumer a choice and prove a point that Islanders do want our milk.
"This initiative is our only lifeline to keep dairy farming alive on the Island. However, there is a positive buzz among the dairy farmers that this idea could work and give us all a sustainable future."
David Harvey, managing director of Rew Valley Dairies, believes the Island’s response to competitively priced Island milk will determine the future for dairy farming on the Isle of Wight.
"Since the end of the last war, when there were more than 500 dairy farms on the Island, there has been a catastrophic crash in numbers and the next generation of dairy farming families are leaving it because they can’t see a future in it, so there is a tremendous amount to do to make this a success — but we are determined," said Mr Harvey.