Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has revealed that her department has been in talks with the owners of Fivemiletown Creamery over the past two years as their financial troubles deepened.
And as news broke that the plant is to close with the loss of fifty jobs the Roslea-born Minister said she was seeking urgent talks with the the Glabia Ingredidents Ireland, the group which will now take onr Fivemiletown’s suppliers.
The die was cast at a meeting last week of shareholders to consider proposals put to them by the new owners, Glanbia.
In a statement issued afterwards, they said they voted overwhelmingly (83%) in favour of forming a long-term relationship with Glanbia Ingredients Ireland (GIIL).
It went on: “The agreement, which is subject to the signing of legal documents, involves suppliers of Fivemiletown Creamery entering into a long-term milk supply agreement with GIIL.
“The Fivemiletown milk pool of 25m litres/annum will be supplied to GIIL, and Fivemiletown suppliers will receive an advisory service from GIIL.
“As part of the agreement, GIIL will acquire the Fivemiletown cheese brands, except for Boilie goat’s cheese which will remain with Fivemiletown.”
Local MLA Maurice Morrow articulated many of the vews of employees, suppliers, customers and locals.
He went on: “I am deeply saddened at this turn of events. The 50 loyal employees include a number of master-cheese makers who have created unique products which put Fivemiletown Creamery on a strong trading footing.”
Mr Morrow said the closure, and that of Augher Creamery was a significant double hit on a rural community.
The news also came as a shock to Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
It is due to meet on Tuesday of next week, 15th April in the Valley Hotel (at 8pm) to discuss the closure.
Michael Callaghan, the chamber’s project coordinator, said he did not know, at this stage, what that meeting would achieve.
“I don’t know what decision they will come to, but it’s important that we meet and show solidarity with the employees.”
Meanwhile, the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Arlene Foster, revealed that Invest Northern Ireland had maintained regular contact with Fivemiletown Creamery over the past two years following trading difficulties.
She commented: “Together with Invest Northern Ireland, I am now seeking an urgent meeting with GIIL to discuss securing the best possible outcome.”
‘Fivemiletown’ will retain ownership of the cheese manufacturing site, and GIIL will form an alliance with them in relation to its retail store, Ballylurgan Hardware. It is currently profitable.
The management and board of ‘Fivemiletown’ will now enter into consultations with the employees regarding the future of the cheese factory.
The board of directors, in a statement, said they regretted the loss of jobs.”
The creamery has existed on the current site for the past 116 years.