ARLA Foods wants to recruit more UK dairy farmers to supply an extra 300m litres of milk on top of the 3bn litres a year supplied by its existing UK suppliers.

The news follows its 2,800 British producers – including 225 in the North-East – becoming full members and co-owners of the world’s sixth largest dairy co-operative on January 1. They are part of its European network of 13,500 farmer owners in Denmark, Germany, the UK, Belgium, Luxembourg and Sweden.

Jonathan Ovens, chairman of the new farmer owner group and British farmer director at parent Arla Foods amba, said it was a “momentous achievement.”

He said: “We have been working for ten years to become full members of the Arla co-operative. Arla is committed to delivering a sustainable future for its farmers, and through our ownership we will receive the leading UK milk price.”

Johnnie Russell, AML chairman and British farmer director of Arla Foods amba, said: “The price a farmer receives for his milk today is crucial; however, with quota abolition next year likely to result in a huge upsurge in European milk production, it is essential that a farmer is able to benefit from the returns from world markets.

“Arla has a strategy in place whereby we can access world markets to tap into a broader marketplace for our products.”

Ash Amirahmadi, head of milk and member services at Arla Foods, said: “Arla sells its products in more than 100 countries. Our farmer owners in the UK now have access to them. We are seeing demand growing in developing markets such as Asia. This is a tremendous opportunity to turn British milk into an impressive array of products for home and overseas consumption.”

In December, Arla traded Westbury skimmed milk powder on the Global Dairy Trade auction (GDT), making it the first company to trade British dairy products on the GDT. In December the price of skimmed milk powder rose by 1.7 per cent to £2,870 per metric tonne.

Mr Amirahmadi said: “By including British dairy products on the auction, it clearly strengthens our ability to achieve our mission of securing the highest possible value for our farmers’ milk, while creating opportunities for their growth.”

The UK business contributes approximately 25 per cent to the global revenue of Arla, making it Arla’s largest market.

Almost 95 per cent of its milk is now supplied by its farmer owners.

Arla manufactures brands such as Lurpak, Anchor and Cravendale, and holds the number one market position for fresh milk, cheese, cream, butters and spreads.

Mansel Raymond, chairman of the National Farmers Union’s dairy board, added: “For years UK farmers have looked on enviously at the apparent disparity between this country and mainland European milk prices. It’s good news that Arla has reopened its recruitment window so that British dairy farmers who wish to join Europe’s largest dairy co-operative will have the opportunity to be part of this successful business.”