Farmers turning away from dairy

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The prospects for dairy will remain extremely challenging for the next six months, according to Nick Everington, the chief executive of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF).

“The industry is losing nine farmers per week, which is not healthy,” he told Farming Life.

“The challenge of TB eradication is putting further pressure on the milk sector. RABDF is fully supportive of the current badger culling programme, provided infected animals are replaced with badgers that are totally free of the disease.”

Everington made these comments while briefing journalists in Belfast on the arrangements for this year’s Livestock Event, which takes place in the NEC, Birmingham on July 8th and 9th. He went on to indicate that the Labour Party may well put a halt to the current badger cull, should it form the next government in the UK.

The RABDF representative went on to confirm that a number of dairy farmers in Great Britain currently had no supply contract for their milk.

“These producers are selling their output on the spot market at around 14 pence per litre,” he further explained. “However, this is not sustainable in the long term.”

But by far the biggest issue on Everington’s mind at the present time is the future of First Milk.

“We wish the co-op’s new chief executive Mike Gallagher every best wish for the future,” he said. “But, in truth, he has about twelve months to turn the business around. There is an imperative for the business to get into high value added products.”

Everington believes that the demise of First Milk, should this happen, could have critical knock-on effects for the UK dairy industry as a whole. In terms of resolving the challenges facing the dairy industry at the present time, RABDF is calling for a mix of market and other support measures to be considered. These include the introduction of a futures’ market for dairy products, the development of new export opportunities for British dairy products and the implementation of new labelling measures, which will help profile home produced dairy products on the UK market.

“Retail prices must also be strengthened,” Nick Everington concluded. “And to this end we want to see the powers of the Grocery Trade Adjudicator enhanced considerably.”