Langage Farm fights to avoid job losses as lockdown bites

The boss of Plymouth ice cream maker Langage Farm has called for more Government support for businesses crippled by the Covid-19 lockdown - as it emerges the firm is losing up to GBP50,000 a week. Paul Winterton, managing director at the Smitherleigh-based enterprise, wants more grants made available and an extension to the furlough scheme, plus an "open forum" for businesses to advise ministers. He said this is essential to prevent an economic "timebomb" going off, with a potential tsunami of redundancies if Chancellor Rishi Sunak ends the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme too early.

Mr Winterton said he is battling hard to find new markets for Langage Farm products, so he can rebuild a company and bring 22 furloughed staff back to work without job losses.

Langage Farm's base in Smithaleigh

The company, famous for its high-quality cream, ice cream and yoghurt brands, has maintained many of its supermarket customers but has been badly wounded by the enforced lockdown of retail and hospitality businesses throughout the South West. This means that instead of sending out 18 truck-loads of products a week, the Langage Farm factory is dispatching just four.

It is losing GBP40,000 to GBP50,000 in sales each week due to the lockdown, which, if it continues, will lose the firm GBP1.5million to GBP2million this year.

Read More
Related Articles
Read More
Related Articles

Mr Winterton, who has just 22 people currently working at the factory near Plymouth, said the enterprise lost vital Easter trade and he has fears for the summer if lockdown does not end soon. "I'm very worried," he said. "Local business, retail and hospitality, is pretty much non-existent. Supermarkets dropped but came back again.

We lost one contract with a supermarket."

Paul Winterton, managing director at Langage Farm

He applauded the furlough scheme, which saw workers sent home on 80% of pay, but said: "What's going to happen in a few weeks time? Extending furlough would be a good thing, but it's a waiting ground for redundancy.

"I furloughed 22 people. We are keeping in touch with them and sending them food hampers. I'm trying to secure new contracts.

If I can do that the furlough will have been a good thing, but, if not, there could be an element of those positions that could be redundant. Furlough only gives breathing space. We could be looking at some sort of redundancy situation in the next three or four months."

Sign up to our newsletters for all the latest near you

For more of the latest news, sign up to receive one of our daily or weekly newsletters.

Our teams at Cornwall Live, Devon Live and Plymouth Live are committed to bringing you the latest news, guiding you through this global pandemic and providing the stories that matter. Our daily news email goes out every afternoon and offers a comprehensive overview of the day. You can also sign up for the weekend report, to receive the top stories on a Saturday morning.

Or if you wanted something more specific, sign up to read our Truro, Exeter and Torbay newsletters. Choose which newsletters apply to you from across our Devon and Cornwall titles here - so that you can stay informed, stay home and stay safe. Mr Winterton said his primary concern was the virus and the tragedy it is bringing to families.

But he is also worried about the effect the lockdown is having on the economy. "It about the economic fallout," he said. "The NHS has done a remarkable job but I'm disappointed in the Government - it should have reacted earlier with business support." He applauded the help ministers have given businesses so far, but feels more needs to be done, especially as he feels SMEs have been somewhat "left to their own devices".

He said, for example, Langage Farm had been allowed to defer its business rates payments - but they would still need paying. He stressed loans offered under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) would also need repaying and said: "Why do we want that financial burden?

Read More
Related Articles
Read More
Related Articles

He said grants or rates reductions would be preferable and said: "There is a timebomb coming if the Government does not support business. "They have to think about rebuilding the economy.

We are talking about social welfare, educating people, giving them a reasonable lifestyle, and choices for their mental wellbeing.

Langage Farm fights to avoid job losses as lockdown bitesLangage Farm's GBP450k yoghurt machinery

"But it's what the future looks like. The biggest risk is we don't know what is going to happen."

He said that some businesses will not survive and added: "Social distancing will be in place for a long time and the economy will take a long time to recover. "Small traders are living from month to month, or week to week. How are they supposed to survive?

Only by getting themselves into debt? "Help has to be quicker and more targeted. I'm not knocking what has been done - but it is not good enough.

Mr Winterton wants an "open forum" set up with business people represented on a panel which can tell ministers what help and support industry sectors need to restart the economy. "They (ministers) have never been faced with this challenge before and don't know how to deal with it," he said. Meanwhile, Langage Farm is doing everything it can to weather the storm and is developing new products and exploring new markets.

How to contact William Telford

Langage Farm fights to avoid job losses as lockdown bites

Business Live's Plymouth journalist is William Telford, business editor at Plymouth Live.

William has more than a decade's experience reporting on the business scene in the Ocean City. To contact William: Email: [email protected]

Phone: 01752 293116 Facebook: www.facebook.com/william.telford.5473 Twitter: @WTelfordHerald

To sign up for Business Live's daily newsletters click here    "We have started to increase our product development capacity," Mr Winterton said. "We are focused on new product development and will have launches in mid-summer and December. That's new creams and ice creams.

We have some exciting lines coming. We are sending examples to buyers' home addresses." He said it is hoped these new products will soon be gracing the shelves of "major supermarkets" such as M&S.

In addition management roles have changed at the plant. With so few staff able to work, everyone is pitching in and Mr Winterton said: "I'm packing ice cream, for example. Langage Farm has also started working closely with other food industry businesses in Devon and Cornwall, finding ways to help each other out.

He predicts that when the virus abates "there will be more people speaking to each other, across different industries".

You may also like...