With an additional 25 million litres of milk being committed to it from Scottish producers, it would appear that First Milk, the country’s largest farmer-owned co-operative, has benefitted from the recent price battle between producers and milk processors.
The figures emerged yesterday when more than 350 farmers and industry representatives descended on Sandyford farm in Ayrshire for a First Milk roadshow. A spokeswoman for the co-operative said that the additional supplies had been recruited in the past fortnight in Scotland and that the company was having discussions “with lots of other producers”.
As the milk price battle, which started with some processors announcing a drop in the price they would pay farmers for milk, wore on, it became clear that there was a groundswell of support for farmers to take more control of their marketing and one way of doing that was supplying a farmer-owned co-operative.
Yesterday’s announcement, and the numbers of producers attending what was primarily a First Milk event, were the first concrete evidence that producers were prepared to make a move towards co-operative marketing following the break-up of the milk board monopolies in the 1980s.
First Milk’s chief executive Kate Allum highlighted the company’s recent acquisitions which further help diversify the business into value added milk products for the future benefit of members.
She urged producers to seize the moment: “We must take this window of opportunity to fix things once and for all. There’s no point waiting a couple of months, or even worse waiting a couple of years and then trying to restructure the industry against a backdrop of the quota removal across Europe and all the upheaval that will bring.”
The current year had been one of change for the British dairy industry and one of the changes facing producers was who they would want to work with in the future.
“This is the time to be active, not passive,” she said. “Each one of us has to actively and carefully select what kind of future we want. And that’s equally true for those of you who are unhappy with your milk buyer but choose to do nothing about it. You are also making an active choice to collude in behaviours you don’t like.”
She urged producers to channel their anger at recent events into positive energy and drive for change: “We’ve done enough ‘dancing around the handbags’. It’s time to get out of the stands and on to the pitch. The more producers come with us, the greater the opportunity to develop a broad range of markets and the greater the influence on returns. It’s that simple.
“I remain absolutely convinced that the best short-term, medium-term and longer-term solution for farmers is strength in numbers.”
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Monday 20 May 2013
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