Following a meeting with representatives of NFU Scotland last Thursday (12th July) Rural Affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, has published an action plan to confront the pricing crisis in the dairy industry.
He has also called for a dairy summit with his UK and Welsh counterparts in advance of the Royal Welsh Show.
These developments come in the wake of mass demonstrations at Westminster, where around 2,000 farmers from across the UK – including, we are told, Argyll and Bute – gathered to voice their concerns and demand action from the UK government on the latest round of milk price cuts.
The Rural Affairs Secretary’s five point plan includes:
- calling for a ministerial summit to discuss the current situation and establish a timetable for consulting on legislation;
- asking Defra Minister, Jim Paice, to appoint an independent objective facilitator to assist with the current negotiations between producers and processors in an effort to agree a voluntary code of practice;
- writing to retailers demanding clarity for consumers about how much producers receive for their milk;
- commissioning a long-term strategic review to establish where the dairy industry wants to be in 10 years and how to get there;
- ensuring the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) have sufficient resources to accelerate their existing work on producer organisations and co-operatives.
Mr L;ochhead says: ‘I’ve been working hard to find a solution that better meets the needs of our dairy farmers. We must find a way to maximise the potential of this sector while also ensuring farmers are paid a fair price for a valuable product.
‘I am clear that every part of the supply chain has a part to play in finding a solution to the current problem, including retailers and supermarkets.
‘We all drink milk and we need the dairy industry to continue and we must not risk letting it crumble. I know that consumers are right behind the milk industry.’
Argyll and Bute MSP, Michael Russell has welcomed this five-point action plan, aware that better ways must be found to support Scotlands’s dairy farmers.
He says: ‘It is clear dairy farmers are angry and frustrated about the current situation, and I can understand why they feel so aggrieved.
‘The Rural Secretary is working hard to find a solution that meets the needs of our farmers and helps them to continue in business. Mr Lochhead’s meeting with NFU Scotland and his five point action plan are all steps to try and find a way to maximise the potential of the sector while ensuring farmers are paid a fair price for their valuable product.
‘Mr Lochhead is clear that every part of the supply chain must play their part in finding a solution to the current problem, including retailers and supermarkets, and the UK Government must act quickly to support the industry.’