One company that continues to be very successful in developing the dairy industry in the Middle East is First Food Projects, of Bridgwater, Somerset.

Set up by Neil McDonald, the company specialises in factory design from concept to completion, which includes design, implementation, project management, commissioning and functional guarantees. Its solutions are bespoke and tailored to each client’s requirements, and are adaptable to changing situations, retaining flexibility en-route to achieving a successful project conclusion.

Neil explains, “I trained and qualified as a food microbiologist and have spent almost all of my life working in the dairy industry, both in the UK and overseas. At the time that the UK entered the Common Market, I was working in New Zealand, helping them set up laboratories and meet the new European requirements. When I came back, I worked as a microbiological consultant in the Middle East, spending 30 years there and eventually I, together with a number of other consultants set up in 1998 MSA Food Projects. This split up about 2-3 years ago and I started my present company.”

Since starting First Food, Neil has been involved in a major project for Juhayna Food Industries in Egypt. This project at Juhayna’s Dawleya Factory involved the design of the buildings, utilities, process and filling engineering, automation and project management. This was to create a state-of–the-art juice and drinks factory. The site covers some 50,000m2 and produces long-life juices, nectars and drinks in cartons and PET bottles.

As Neil explains, “I have worked extensively now in the Middle East and have carried out some major projects in Egypt (Juhayna Food Industries and IGI), Saudi Arabia (Almarai Company, Halwani Brothers), Kuwait (Kuwait Dairy Company) and Cyprus (Christis Dairies and Lordos Plastics) and, nearer to home work for Northern Foods plc and Dairy Crest. Neil is currently working in Jordan and Kuwait evaluating the possibility of building a new dairy in the UAE. Over the years, I have gained a lot of experience in the slightly different food structures of dairy products throughout the Middle East. They specialise in fermented dairy products to a much greater extent than we do in the UK.”

Neil has built up a wide range of associates in countries in North Africa, in the Gulf and the Middle East and right across into India. He says that, “From our years of experience we can now offer a very wide range of services, ranging from feasibility studies, building and design specifications, service and utility design, process engineering, automation, equipment selection validation, logistics and project management. I am currently working in Kuwait where we have been asked to upgrade and redevelop an existing dairy. A cooperative group of farmers have previously been supplying to other dairies and now want to do their own processing. The big question at the moment however is what is going to happen in the Middle East, how long will it be before it settles down and what shape will it then take? This is the $64,000 question!”


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