THE price paid to dairy farmers for the milk they produce has been a major concern for me since I was first elected as your MP.

Although the farmgate price has recovered since the dark days of 2016 when it was around 20 pence per litre –below the cost farmers paid to produce it – milk remains a volatile commodity with UK farmers at the mercy of a global marketplace.

At the height of the crisis I produced a ten-point plan for the industry and one of those points was the need for the UK to invest in dairy processing capacity to convert more of our milk into butter, cheese and yoghurt, which in turn would make our farmers less vulnerable to the ups and downs of the liquid milk market. It was surprising to me that we import so many of these products when we have plentiful quality milk here at home.

Working on that plan, I very much had in mind a company like the Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes which takes milk from dairy farmers in the dale to turn it into multi award-winning Wensleydale cheese, butter and yoghurt.

It is the biggest private employer in the dale – and one of the biggest in the Richmond constituency – and, as I heard on a recent visit, it is continuing to grow.

Among the creamery’s plans for 2018 is the launch of its own brand of cheddar cheese – extra mature “handcrafted from Yorkshire milk for proper strength and character”. I was particularly pleased about this development. During my study of the industry I discovered that the UK imports thousands of tonnes of cheddar every year which seems extraordinary for a quintessentially British product like cheddar.

We buy more cheddar cheese in the UK than any other and yet one of the top selling brands – Pilgrim’s Choice – is made entirely with Irish milk. We need to make more of our own with our own milk.

Traditional Yorkshire Wensleydale remains, of course, at the heart of the Hawes company’s production and recent years have seen it take a bigger slice of the UK traditional cheese market on the back of its protected geographical indication status.

PGI status (an EU system which I am sure we will replicate after Brexit) means only cheese produced in Wensleydale can be called Yorkshire Wensleydale - enhancing its reputation for quality and distinctiveness.

The creamery has also been making big investments in technology for slicing, weighing and packaging, and working with other local producers like Yorkshire Provender which uses Wensleydale cheese in two of its soups.

Kettle Crisps, a national brand, now produce a premium range which feature cheese from the creamery including a delicious-sounding Yorkshire Wensleydale and Cox Apple Chutney flavour.

With all this going on at the creamery, it’s worth remembering that just 25 years ago the Creamery was closed by Dairy Crest with the loss of 59 jobs. Thanks to the passion and commitment of four ex-managers and a local businessman, it was revived the same year and today employs 220 people and exports cheese worth more than £3m around the world. What a success story and I’ve been proud to do all I can to support its recent progress.

Businesses like the Wensleydale Creamery demonstrate the way forward for the UK dairy industry through its consistent investment in technology, new products, marketing and building a brand which works in the UK and, even more importantly, the fast-developing markets in the rest of the world. We don’t just love Yorkshire Wensleydale, the world does too.