Call for urgent dairy action
If a voluntary agreement cannot be reached to tackle plummeting milk prices then the option of legislation should be explored according Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead in a letter to DEFRA Agriculture Minister Jim Paice.
The letter, which follows another round of price cuts imposed on Scotland’s hard pressed milk producers, comes ahead of a meeting between Mr Paice and milk industry representatives on Wednesday, which will also be attended by Scotland’s Chief Agricultural Officer Drew Sloan.
Mr Lochhead said:
“These further price cuts clearly demonstrate that the milk supply chain is not operating fairly and the ongoing instability in the market is not serving the long term interests of the wider industry.
"The level of frustration amongst milk producers is understandably high and if we do not act now we run the risk of more dairy farmers leaving the industry in disgust, hampering the sector’s ability to meet both domestic demand and maximise its undoubted export potential. That would be a travesty.
“While I welcomed the initiative to encourage the milk processors and producers to agree a voluntary code of practice to tackle current price imbalances, I believe that we must signal that we are prepared to take further action.
“That’s why I have written to Jim Paice calling on him to join me in increasing the pressure on the major retailers and processors to provide producers with a return that properly rewards their commitment and professionalism .
“If a voluntary code of practice cannot be agreed to tackle pricing issues, then the Scottish Government will be left with no option but to begin exploring the case for legislation - though a voluntary deal remains our preferred solution.
“Our dairy farmers produce a high quality and essential product for which they deserve to be paid a fair and equitable price. The current epidemic of price cuts is simply unsustainable and cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.”