Farms face “threat to existence” over milk collpase

Picture: TSPL

Picture: TSPL

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Desperate farmers have suffered income falls of up to 50% over plummeting milk prices, MSPs told bosses at under fire dairy co-op First Milk today.

The newly installed chief executive of the body admitted he is “not happy” about the 26 pence per litre it pays and that it could threaten the existence for some farms without a turnaround.

Mike Gallagher was giving evidence before Holyrood’s Rural Affairs committee today, along with Scottish director Jim Baird..

On pricing, Labour’s Sarah Boyack said: “One of the striking things about First Milk is just how low it is in the rankings of price paid to producers.”

Mr Gallagher said he has talked to 600 farmers in the past couple of weeks.

And he said: “I’m not happy with where we are and we need to do a better job - and we need to do it fast.”

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell produced two invoices from a farm in Bute which showed First Milk paid £15,017 for 46,139 litres of milk last April. This year for 44,583 litres, the same producers got just over £7,000.

“That was more than half of that income gone,” Mr Russell said.

The former minister described the figures as “horrific” and said he knew of another farm losing £200 a day.

“How do people survive in these circumstances?” Mr Russell said.

“This isn’t sustainable.”

Mr Baird said the problem was a national issue across the UK and was not sustainable in the long term.

Mr Gallagher added: “There’s an existential threat for dairy across the UK if this continues.”

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