A LOCAL dairy owner has been left both bewildered and dismayed that Monmouthshire County Council have cancelled his long-term contract to supply milk to local schools.

For nine years Raglan Dairy has been supplying the county’s schools, leisure centres, and care homes with milk from Monmouthshire farms. However, as part of MCC’s cost-cutting drive, the milk will now be provided from Pembrokeshire farms and distributed from Cardiff.

James Durose of Raglan Dairy put in a tender for the contract last Summer, but the decision was delayed until the end of January when he was informed that he was unsuccessful and a company from Pembrokeshire had won the contract.

“It’s quite frankly bizarre and doesn’t make sense on any level,” explained James. “Particularly in light of the council’s Local Food Strategy.”

MCC’s Local Food Strategy core proposals are to “Increase the use of local produce in schools and care homes. To showcase local food and drink producers. To work across the supply chain to support the development of the local food economy and reduce our reliance on imported food. And to work with procurement colleagues to maximise the social value and minimise the environmental impact of public sector food contracts.”

James explained, “I’ve attended meetings about MCC’s sustainable food initiatives and they seem to completely contradict how they act in reality. It’s quite laughable really that they wax lyrical about all these ideas and values but when it comes to the bottom line, their sole concern seems to be one of pricing and expense.”

James told the Chronicle that although the Pembrokeshire-based company scored better on the formula MCC used for pricing, in other areas there was no difference between the two companies.

“The bottom line is, price isn’t everything,” explained James. “We are a Monmouthshire-based company, my staff and I all live in the area, and we deliver Monmouthshire milk from Monmouthshire farms to Monmouthshire schools. Surely all this has to be taken into account when you’re considering how a circular economy works?”

For years Raglan Dairy has had a system in place where the milk is collected from eight local farms and sent to Tewkesbury for processing. The Cotteswold Dairy then returns it to Raglan and they deliver it.

Under the new regime, the milk is farmed and bottled in Pembrokeshire before being sent to Cardiff for distribution.

James explained, “If we had a milk processing plant in Monmouthshire we would use that but we’re a border county and it’s not a hard border but a fluid one, so it makes sense to use the Cotteswold Dairy as it’s the nearest.

“Under this new system, everything has been quite literally farmed out to another supplier and distributor.

“A lot of people might think it’s sour grapes on our behalf, but seriously if the contract had gone to another Monmouthshire Dairy it wouldn’t have been a problem. It’s the principle at stake.

“Because we’re classed as a secondary and not a primary supplier MCC did offer us the olive branch of acting as a distributor for the Pembrokeshire-based company but that completely goes against our ethos. We believe in distributing local milk to local people and we’re not about to throw our principles in the bin for some easy money.”

Conservative councilors have reacted angrily to the news.

Cllr Richard John, Leader of the Conservative Group, said, “It was a source of pride that Monmouthshire used only locally sourced milk from Monmouthshire farms. Residents will be appalled at this decision and I strongly urge the cabinet to ensure that Monmouthshire children can enjoy Monmouthshire milk.”

MCC has been contacted for a statement.