Guest column by Owen Paterson: Arla investment is a vote of confidence in Britain

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson

Recently I had the pleasure to officially open the state-of-the-art Arla dairy in Aylesbury.

This £150m facility is the biggest of its kind in the world. Arla’s huge investment demonstrates the confidence global business has in the local Bucks economy and the government’s long-term economic plan.

The dairy will directly provide 700 sustainable jobs for local residents, boosting regional economic growth.

There will be up to 90 apprenticeships, meaning that young people will be able to learn the skills they need for the workplace right here on the job.

I was very encouraged to hear that this dairy is already having a positive impact on the local economy.

On my visit I saw for myself the high-tech approach you would expect from a facility that will soon process a billion litres of milk a year.

This milk will all be British, from around 900 farms across the country.

The majority of these will be from owners of the Arla co-operative, meaning that farmers themselves will benefit.

Arla’s decision to build in Aylesbury is not just good news for the local economy and for farmers across the country, it is a real boost for Britain’s £97 bn agricultural sector.

It demonstrates that farming is now one of the most high-tech industries we have.

Worth £3.7bn, dairy is the country’s biggest agricultural sector, and has huge opportunities to grow.

We’re self-sufficient in liquid milk in the UK, but despite having the expertise, climate and work ethic, we currently import half our cheese, butter and yoghurt.

That’s up to £1.2bn worth of dairy products which we could make ourselves.

Investments like this one show there’s a real appetite to boost our diary industry, to begin to import less, export more and buy products made in Britain.

The government is helping to make that a reality, with our £5m Dairy Fund, which helps farmers invest in technology and develop marketing and business management skills to ensure that farmer-owned co-operatives like Atrla thrive.

Arla’s investment demonstrates not only that Bucks is a great place to invest and do business but that the agriculture sector – the UK’s largest manufacturing sector – can continue to grow and make a very significant contribution to our economic security.