Scots pioneer: will collective action on marketing fresh produce help to counter the imbalance of power in Britain’s food supply chain?

Injustice: when a product is imported at a price below its cost of production the British government may take action under WTO/GATT international agreements – but when British produce (often liquid milk) is sold at a price below its cost of production government takes no notice and certainly no remedial action.

Currently large buyers can shamefully hold producers of perishable food to ransom

alyn smith mepEarlier this month, Clyn Gallagher reported that MEP Alyn Smith (right), the Scottish member on the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, approves the setting up of the country’s first producer organisation. He described it as “a vital first step in saving Scotland’s dairy industry”.

Legally constituted groups of farmers or growers assist in the distribution and marketing of fresh farm produce and can optimise production costs, stabilise producer prices, and respond faster to changes in the market.

Members of the Milk Supply Association (MSA) are in the process of registering with the Rural Payments Agency to form the first EU Dairy Producer Organisation (DPO) in Scotland. Following the 2013 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, these organisations can negotiate collectively for contract terms, including price, and access markets unavailable to individual producers.

ec 2 press release header

Dacian Cioloş, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, pointed out in the press release that the 2013 agreement was intended to lead to far-reaching changes:

  • making direct payments fairer and greener,
  • strengthening the position of farmers within the food production chain and
  • making the CAP more efficient and more transparent.

These decisions, he believes, represent the EU’s response to the challenges of food safety, climate change, growth and jobs in rural areas.

MEP Alyn Smith said: “I hope to see more Dairy Producer Organisations popping up all over Scotland to counter the imbalance of power in the food supply chain, and I will do everything I can to support them in the European Parliament and at home.”

“Farmers have traditionally eschewed collective action but attitudes have to change in this world of the modern supply chain and the retail juggernauts.



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