Buyers for Minorca's milk CAPSA, the group which owns Central Lechera Asturiana, gave Minorcan farmers a welcome piece of good news this week with the announcement that they will purchase between 6 and 6.5 million litres of their milk from the end of the summer. CAPSA was not expected to operate in Minorca until 2006 when the new bottling centre – a project between CAPSA and Island dairy cooperative, COINGA – was fully functioning. This milk to be purchased is over and above the quota purchased by COINGA for cheese production, and the majority of the 40 farmers interested are those who have lost sales to Kraft. CAPSA will export milk to their bottling plant in Vicreres (Girona), although given the transport costs, a lower price will probably be paid than for milk purchased on mainland Spain. COINGA and CAPSA will meet at the end of this month to discuss logistics and pricing. By 2005, CAPSA hopes to purchase between 10 and 12 million litres and once the bottling plant is in function in 2006, this should increase to 30 and 35 million litres of milk – around half of current production. The COINGA bottling plant will be located in Alaior, although it is still at the basic plan stage, awaiting approval from the island's council. Costing 6 million euros, the joint venture will see COINGA and CAPSA forming a society and the milk will almost certainly be marketed under the Asturiana brand name. Expansion will also enable COINGA to increase its cheese manufacturing facilities, from 16 million to 25 million litres. CAPSA was not the only company to bring good news to the island's farmers. Business man, Francisco Marin Mula, supplier to the Alicante–based dairy Clesa, visited the island to propose its farms commit 20–25% of their annual quota for sale to mainland cheese industries, some 18 million litres in total. He was accompanied by Lorenzo Abellan from Murcian–based Queserias Montesinos, which is also interested in Minorcan milk. In Es Mercadal, Abellan, Marin and Ciutadella councillor, Jordi Salford Bosch (who has been in contact with various mainland dairy producers), presented their proposal to farmers and the island council. Marin and Abellan say the venture would require an initial investment of 1.2 million euros to construct a small plant, employing three or four workers, to filter the milk and produce curd and condensed milk before exportation. If approved, the project could begin in a matter of months. The island council gave a cautious welcome to the project, Marin and Abellan are to carry out a feasibility study.

In other dairy news, multinational Kraft broke its uncomfortable silence with the workers at its Mahon plant late last week, announcing that it intends to increase production at the site. Following a meeting with Kraft's Spanish Director, Manuel Alcover, representatives from the Mahon site were assured about the plant's short term future, although Alcover was cagey when questioned about its long term prospects. He did assure that any change to the structure of the workforce would be subject to prior consultation with Mahon's committee. Union delegate, Margot Sastre, said the news has helped both sides clarify their positions. But Alcover's promise to increase production contrasts the announcement in May that Kraft was to purchase 10% less cheese from local farmers. Alcover also made no comments about the three workers dismissed in May.

Hotel Group and Basquet
IBB Hotels is pinpointed to be Menorca Basquet's new sponsor for the next two years, subject to some fine tuning. Damia Llull President of the hotel group, which has a total of 16 hotels in the Balearics, Lleida and Vigo, met with Menorca Basquet's president, Jose Luis Sintes late last week. Although neither side gave specific details, the deal has a price tag of around 120'000 euros per year.

Llull stressed the chain's connection with the team, “I'm Minorcan”, he explained, “and so are the majority of our shareholders”. He reminded that IBB Hotels has already helped with publicity for the club. As the chain is looking to grow outside Minorca and the team plays across Spain, sponsorship is a good way to achieve that expansion. There are two potential sticking points that need resolving before any contract is signed. One is IBB Hotels has asked Menorca Basquet to change its uniform to purple with grey lettering, the same as its logo.

Pons meets with consuls
MARC Pons, the Central Government Delegate, a role which makes him Minorca's direct contact to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, met with representatives from the German Consulate, and the British, The Netherlands and French Vice Consulates late last week. Pons offered his services to the Consuls and Vice Consuls to act as a mediator between them and other government departments, while the four representatives made several suggestions to Pons on how to simplify and improve the process of becoming residents.

Pons stressed the importance of maintaining good relations with these EU members whose populations are highly significant on the island.
Son Xoriguer delay
DESPITE complaints from locals and bathers about the difficulty of access to the water, Ciutadella's town hall announced that improvements to Son Xoriguer will have to be postponed until the winter. Given the degradation of the area, environmental councillor, Eulalia Llufriu, believes a study needs to be undertaken to determine how the beach can be improved. She claims the problem is longstanding and can't be solved with quick fixes. For the time being, existing sand will be redistributed across the beach, offering a short term solution to access to the water – currently the area is filled with rocks, making paddling near impossible.