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Chocolate farm closure

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 12:05 UK time, Friday, 16 September 2011

'Would you be able to go and record an item at Pemberton's Chocolate Farm for this week's programme?'

That was one of this week's assignments from Pauline Smith, the producer of Country Focus on Radio Wales. Obviously, I didn't need to be asked twice!

The business, based near Llanboidy in Carmarthenshire was started 20 years ago by Elizabeth Jones and her husband Alan but after Alan's death three years ago, Elizabeth felt she couldn't carry on running the farm without him.

So, the business was put on the market and at the end of this month, chocolate production will come to an end. The problem is that although they've had lots of interest, no-one has actually come forward with an offer yet.

Working in a chocolate factory would be many people's idea of heaven and the staff at Pemberton's are no exception. Apparently one of the most common questions asked by visitors is 'Are you a real life Oompa Loompas?'.

Staff were so concerned at losing their jobs that they launched an appeal on YouTube and had an amazing response. Rachel Calvert who stars in the video told me they've had more than 1,000 web hits and two viewings to the factory as a result (plus a marriage proposal!) but still no buyer.

The first thing I noticed when I went into the shop was a giant chocolate egg priced at £200 and weighing 18kg - apparently that's one and a half times the average person's annual consumption of chocolate.

The shop was packed with all sort of treats and temptations and I couldn't help wondering what would happen to it all if the farm closed and the business is disbanded.

It's also a sign of the difficulties of running a business in a remote, rural area. Elizabeth explained that you've got to 'work that bit harder to draw people to your door'.

Another problem at the moment is that people are having difficulty borrowing money from the banks, which again can't be a good thing for the rural economy.

September 30 is the deadline for Pemberton's which is fast approaching so it could bad news for chocoholics and the end of an era for chocolate making in West Wales.



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