A state-of-the-art cheese production and storage plant was officially opened last Friday (29th September 2000) in Mid Wales, offering a much-welcomed boost to the region's dairy farmers and creating 65 new jobs.

Carwyn Jones AM, Agriculture and Rural Development Secretary for the National Assembly for Wales, officially opened the new 65,000sq ft facility at the Welsh Development Agency's Aeron Valley Enterprise Park, at Felinfach, Ceredigion.

The WDA's Mid Wales Division constructed the dairy facility for Aeron Valley Cheese Ltd - a subsidiary of Milk Marque Developments - as part of the company's need to expand its cheese production. The project received financial support from the National Assembly through a Processing and Marketing Grant.

Mr Jones said: "Projects such as this provide additional processing facilities in Wales, adding value to local milk. The development of value added processing is crucial for the long-term prosperity of the area and is exactly the sort of project we have been seeking to encourage through the development of the Wales Agri-Food Strategy."

Speaking at the opening, WDA Board Member Susan Balsom said: "This is red letter day for the dairy industry in rural Wales. The opening of this modern production facility and warehouse not only brings much-needed jobs to the area, but also provides a welcome boost to the agricultural industry."

"It also marks an important step in the development of Aeron Valley Cheese, providing the company with a modern pre-pack and cheese storage facility capable of building on the company's success as a premium Welsh brand," she added.

Mrs Balsom stated that the development formed an important part of the Agri-Food Partnership's Dairy Action Plan to maximise the performance of dairy processors. It also forms part of the WDA's strategy to develop Wales as a region of excellence within the food sector.

Aeron Valley Cheese Ltd, which has an existing production plant and administrative headquarters adjacent to the current site, employing 30 people, produces a range of specialist cheeses. The new plant will create 65 new jobs and provide extra production and storage facilities to cope with demand for the company's quality products.

Mr Robert Foreman, Managing Director of Aeron Valley Cheese Ltd, said: "Today marks an important step in the development of Aeron Valley Cheese. We have a World-Class facility here at Felinfach providing one of the most modern Cheese Pre packing and Storage facilities in Britain.

"We are already increasing production as a direct result of the new facility and looking forward to it adding value not only to Aeron Valley Cheese's brand, but the Welsh dairy industry as a whole."

The development was built on the site of a former cattle breeding station cleared by the WDA in 1998 in preparation for the development.

Manufacturing capacity at the company's original production site has doubled over the past two years following the installation of new cheese-making vats and block-forming towers. The new development will increase storage capacity and allow more cheese to be matured on site, helping Aeron Valley Cheese Ltd to take full advantage of the market for premium Cheddar. In addition, the pre-pack hall will further improve the company's ability to meet the precise requirements of the major retailers.

Among the cheeses produced at Felinfach are Welsh Mild Cheddar, Welsh Farmhouse Cheddar, Welsh Mature Cheddar, Welsh Vintage Cheddar, Red Leicester and Double Gloucester. The mild cheddar requires three months maturation while the extreme Vintage cheddar needs 12 to 14 months maturation. Having the facilities to store more cheeses means the company can increase production.

The cheese store will be able to hold 5,000 tonnes of cheese alongside the new pre-packing facility. The company has successfully launched Welsh branded cheeses through retailers across the country.

The main contractor for the project was DJ Construction of Colwyn Bay, North Wales.