In a period of two years more than 400 Belgian dairy farmers have cancelled their membership of the dairy cooperative Milcobel. Belgium’s largest dairy company has been paying farmers a lower milk price than competitors for years. The company is also faced with new competitors such as the Dutch company A-ware.
A-ware is taking over FrieslandCampina’s milk powder factory in Aalter and is looking for several hundred Belgian dairy farms to supply it with milk. The company pays a milk price of about 35c. This is not done to buy farmers off from competitors but, according to A-ware, is the market price.
For years, farmers have been dissatisfied with Milcobel’s relatively low milk price. That is why the top man had to resign in 2019 after less than two years of service. The new top man, Nils van Dam, announced a transformation plan to be able to pay farmers a higher price. He also booked results. “The price difference with competitors has fallen from over 3c to 0.65c since the beginning of this year,” Van Dam told “De Tijd”.
Van Dam hopes to be able to further increase the milk price in the coming years. The goal is to reduce costs by €54m annually in 2025 compared to 2020. In 2021, €30m will be saved. That is €10m more than was budgeted. In addition, investments will be made in more profitable products such as ice cream, industrial mozzarella and cheese for consumers.
Milcobel closed an outdated milk powder factory in Langemark. A factory in Schoten, which had been making losses for years, was also closed down. The one-off costs of this redundancy round resulted in a loss of €20m last year.