Dairy processor Arla Foods today (11 January) announced plans to close the production and processing units at its Sheffield Park site, near Uckfield. The closure will cost the area 250 jobs. The dairy will still be used as a distribution point for raw milk from Sussex farmers, and about 80 employees will be kept on to run operations there.

The decision follows the sale of the Express Foodservice business to Dairy Crest. “We sold the business last year and the processing volume went with it, creating a situation where processing capability is bigger than necessary,” Arla spokesperson Nicola Hedge told just-food.

The remaining volume at Sheffield Park will be moved to four other sites – Hatfield Peverel, Oarthorpe, Ashby de la Zouche and Manchester – Hedge said.

The closure will detrimentally affect the area, which has suffered the loss of 500 jobs in the past two years.

“Obviously farmers are bitterly disappointed to lose the local milk processing facility,” Isobel Bretherton of the National Farmers’ Union said this morning. “Although it won’t effect bulk collections, the nearest processing facility is now in Essex. The closure will harm the local economy with the loss of 250 rural jobs.”