The claim by NFU Scotland presidential hopeful, Jim McLaren,
that the invoicing campaign being mounted by dairy farmers is
no more than a “gimmick” has been challenged by leading
milk quota broker, Ian Potter.
Dairy farmers should be supporting the initiative by invoicing
milk processors for the short-fall in ex-farm milk prices, Mr Potter
insisted when he spoke to 350 farmers at a Farm Forum held by Harbro
Ltd at their new £5 million animal feed mill at Lesmahagow,
“The supermarkets are watching what happens closely and
if too few farmers respond, the conclusion will be that they are
not bothered,” he warned. “A good response is crucial.
It is a challenge and takes up less time than going on a demonstration.
The industry needs activists – not laid back pacifists.”
Retailers and processors, Mr Potter added, will not fully realise
that the current low milk price is unsustainable until production
is cut dramatically.
“Production may have to be cut by upwards of four billion
litres before any real difference will be seen,” he suggested.
The Single Farm Payment – which processors had already “pick-pocketed” – should
not be used to prop up a loss-making business.
“Using the SFP for this purpose is only sticking a plaster
on the wound and sooner or later it will have to be removed,” he
Mr Potter said the acquisition of Dairy Crest’s commodity
cheese processing operation by the dairy farmers’ co-op,
First Milk, would open the way for dairy farmers to own the bulk
of milk processing in the UK.
The aim should be to “de-commoditise” milk by following
Waitrose and ASDA in sourcing milk from dedicated suppliers or
through farm-branded milk.
“Today, the dairies supplying milk and cheese to the big
retailers are competing on price alone,” he said.
ANM Group chief executive, Brian Pack, renewed his attack on reforms
of the Common Agricultural Policy and predicted a “re-coupling” of
support linked to production.
“The EU has lost sight of the fact that food production
is the key to society,” said Mr Pack. “Politicians
still think we have mountains of beef in cold stores when in fact
Europe is down to 60% self-sufficiency.
“France has not yet got rid of the suckler cow premium and
Ireland has recently re-introduced direct support for suckler cows.
The rest of Europe will follow in three or four years in order
to encourage increased beef production.”
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