DEFRA Found Guilty of Massaging Milk Price Statistics

The Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the outcome of a statistical inquiry into the publication of milk price statistics which has concluded that DEFRA published misleading information earlier in the year.

In the spring, DEFRA published a statistical notice reporting that the average farm gate milk price for February 2016 increased by 2.48p per litre. This was immediately called into question by dairy commentator Chris Walkland of Walkland Partnerships Ltd who tabled a formal complaint which was supported by the Tenant Farmers Association. It was simply impossible that the February milk price quoted was correct.

Dairy Cows

An explanation from the DEFRA statistical division suggested that the February price was affected by the payment of an annual bonus but this in itself could not have explained the increase quoted. However, the Director General from the UK Statistics Authority, Ed Humpherson has agreed with the complaint. He said;
“the presentation of the series including bonus payments was materially misleading” and went as far as to say that the statistical notice should not have been published and concluded the same for publications produced in previous years. DEFRA has now agreed to engage with industry organisations to improve the quality of the statistics produced in future years.

TFA North West Chairman and dairy farmer Robert Martin said;
“We were all amazed and confused with what DEFRA produced in its statistical notice but despite our protestations DEFRA appeared to be unrepentant. These notices are used by dairy farmers not only in their negotiations with their processors but also in other types of negotiations like rent reviews. When spurious information is issued this causes real problems. I am pleased that this matter has been rectified and look forward to having further discussions with DEFRA to ensure that such problems do not re-occur”.


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