Challenges and opportunities at top of dairy talks agenda

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REPRESENTATIVES of the UK farming unions, Ulster Farmers Union, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the NFU met in Cardiff this week to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the UK dairy industry.

During the two-day meeting, dairy representatives from the unions discussed the UK and global market opportunities for UK farmers as well as the continuing challenge and impact of spiralling production costs.

All agreed to continue dialogue with milk buyers and made a commitment to press for the Voluntary Code of Best Practice for Dairy Contracts in Great Britain, and the separate Code agreed in Northern Ireland, to be delivered in the form of enhanced working relations between producers and processors.

Following the meeting, UFU Dairy Committee vice chairman Jonathan Moore said: “While our routes to market may differ, the fundamentals are the same. Our milk is in demand and it must be valued accordingly if farmers are to have the confidence to invest in their businesses. Costs are increasing at an alarming rate and farmers cannot absorb them. The UFU highlighted the pressures on feed costs and a possible scarcity of fodder going into the winter.

“We also addressed farm safety and highlighted the UFU drive to improving awareness and safety on farms, which has come about on the back of the horrific year experienced with the catalogue of fatalities and serious accidents.”

NFU Scotland Milk Committee Chairman, Gary Mitchell added: “Now is the time for farmers to collaborate and pull together. Collaboration can take many forms, from working with producer representatives, exploring the opportunities of membership of a producer organisation or joining a co-op. The bottom line is that there is strength in numbers and now is the time to work together to optimise returns from the market.”

NFU Cymru milk board chairman Aled Jones, who hosted the visit, set the scene for discussions, stating: “Dairy farming is at the heart of the Welsh rural economy, contributing 30 per cent of Welsh agricultural output.

“Of the 1.5 billion litres of milk produced in Wales, 870 million litres is processed here by more than 40 dairy processors and 90 per cent of this processing capacity is into cheese. It is vital that our processors concentrate on adding value to milk and that this value is passed back to farmers to invest in the foundation of this great supply chain.

“We’ve seen the benefits of collaborating through the dairy coalition, now we must work to ensure individual farmers explore ways to collaborate so that the potential of our industry and market is unlocked.”

Rob Harrison, NFU dairy board vice chairman, said; “It is clear to me that now is the time for dairy farmers to capitalise on market opportunities. Supplies are tight and demand is high. With the Voluntary Code of Best Practice for Dairy Contracts being implemented farmers should expect the market to deliver on a sustainable price for their milk; one that they so desperately need.”