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Farm closure would hit Dunkley’s Dairy

  • Keeping an eye on it: the clock is ticking for dairy cows and other livestock at Westover Farm, which is soon to return to the Bermuda Government (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

The island’s top dairy business said it was watching developments over a closure-threatened farm that provides around a quarter of Bermuda’s milk.

Stephen Dunkley, the general manager of Dunkley’s Dairy, said he was “in a holding pattern” over the potential loss of Westover Farm in Sandys, one of the island’s three main milk suppliers.

Mr Dunkley said he was not yet “overly concerned”.

He added: “I need to see more — something has to be worked out.”

But Mr Dunkley said that the closure of Westover would “definitely impact our supply of milk if all of a sudden it disappears”.

He was speaking after Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister met the owners of Westover Farm, who have been ordered to quit their land by the end of the year.

Richard Bascome Jr and his son, also Richard, was told in May by the Estates Department that their lease on the seven-acre farm, which the family has run for more than 50 years, expired 17 months earlier.

The land is owned by the Bermuda Government, and the Bascomes were given six months from June 1 to leave.

Colonel Burch said his meeting with the Bascomes yesterday morning was “cordial, instructive and productive”.

The minister added: “I am not at liberty to discuss the specifics yet but suffice to say that we see a way forward and have agreed to meet again.”

Green Land Dairy in Smith’s is the island’s top milk supplier, responsible for around half of island milk production, with Westover and Almeida Dairy Farm in St George’s producing about a quarter each.

Mr Dunkley added that the firm’s whole milk and 2 per cent milk come from island suppliers and were the most popular varieties.

Other dairy products, like filled, skimmed and slimline milk, are reconstituted from powder and other ingredients.

Mr Dunkley said: “The fresh milk supply in Bermuda has been pretty steady, and I give credit to our farmers. There hasn’t been any shortage.”

He called the Bascomes “a good, hard-working Bermuda family” that had worked their farm for three generations.

Colonel Burch said in the House of Assembly last month that he was prepared to look into the Bascomes’s lease.

He added: “My preference, and I remain open to this, is to discuss how we move forward.”

The Bermuda Farmers Association defended the Bascomes over the weekend and said that leases on “all government-owned farm lands” had not been renewed over the last three years.

Carlos Amaral, the chairman of the Board of Agriculture, confirmed last night that problems with farmers’ leases needed examination.

He said: “Farmers have been paying rent but with no leases in place, regardless of the government of the day.

“They don’t come up for renewal that often. Realistically, there is no tangible excuse for that backlog.”

Mr Amaral added that the leases did not need immediate attention but that “three years is getting kind of ridiculous”.