Farming Weekly has reported that almost half of Britain’s dairy farmers are scheduled to leave the sector, according to an intentions survey carried out by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF).
Farms are vitally important to a region’s rural economy, trading with many businesses and professions, including vets, animal footcare specialists, accountants, various environmental, financial or animal health services, haulage companies, insurance brokers, auctioneers, land agents, agricultural contractors, agricultural engineers, mechanics, electricians, builders, plumbers, feed merchants, hairdressers and miscellaneous agricultural goods suppliers as well as local pubs, shops, garages and other vital community services.
That is the key message from dairy farmer Kathleen Calvert, who asks for a fair deal for dairy farmers, now once again receiving a significantly lower share of the retail milk price than ten years ago, despite considerably higher costs.
She says: “We are losing hold of a vital skills base at an alarming rate as dedicated dairy farming families are no longer financially able or prepared to work at a continual loss. We believe that many milk buyers gamble with the continuity and security of the UK milk supply by keeping much of the profit further up the market chain. Despite varying business structures and the importance of food production, most farm gate prices are now lower than production costs. This has a knock on effect on a wide range of other businesses and livelihoods of countless people involved, ultimately leading to pressure on incomes”.
It is easy to put pressure on those producing perishable food: fresh milk, fruit and vegetables, who have to sell quickly – in effect holding them to ransom.
Initially specialising entirely in agricultural quotas Ian Potter Associates has consistently headed the field in providing the very best market intelligence, knowledge, expertise, customer service, advice on trading or on increasingly complex regulations and on the most transparent and up to date prices in the market place.
In a recent newsletter Mr Potter refers to the situation in France. The French Fédération Nationale des Coopératives Laitières (FNCL) advocates that no further permission be granted for the import of dairy products, though Dutch Dairy Associations are demanding they respect the EU single market principles and allow foreign dairy imports into France.
The French president, François Hollande – who really seems to care about food producers – has vowed to address the pricing issue, urging French consumers to buy domestic produce.
Their agriculture minister also has urged consumers to be patriotic in their dairy purchasing to help save the livelihoods of the 25,000 French dairy farmers. “All must favour French products,” he said.
Ian Potter continues: “In my opinion we now need a campaign to promote the buying of British dairy products using British milk”
Dairy farmers are compelled to pay a levy to DairyCo/AHDB, a body set up by government, which, Mr Potter notes, has received more than £1 million extra as a result of the increase in production, so it has already had AND SPENT the extra money. He asks: “But on what? Cynics say it spends the money on encouraging more production because that generates more levy money for it…and so on!”
DairyCo told the Radio 4 Farming Today Programme on the 13th August that it can’t promote British dairy products
Ian Potter ends: “I think farmers will want to know exactly why that is. I have heard one Tesco farmer would prefer to give his levy to Tesco if he could to help it promote British milk. That makes sense to me if DairyCo won’t!”
Meanwhile food imports rise and government ministers advise hardworking farmers to place their ‘commodities’ on the global market so that internet bound speculators can ‘make a killing’.
Next: advice from Barbara Crowther, Director of Policy & Public Affairs, Fairtrade Foundation