Tag Archives: RABDF

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers: 2003 and 2017

In August 2003 the Farmers Guardian reported that a series of industry-wide meetings, called by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF), were held for a year to discuss the true costs of milk production.

Members of RABDF, with independent research consultancies and dairy farmers, produced a report showing that the cost of milk production is much higher than current estimates state. The true cost of milk production was found to be between 20 and 23p a litre, rather than the 18p currently being paid. Dairy farmers were working an average 70-hour week with only a few days holiday each year and low milk prices have left them earning just £2.90 an hour.

The chairman, Tim Brigstocke, said that problem areas were fixed costs, farm overheads, farmer remuneration, family labour costs, pensions and staff development had not been included in current assessments.

The new guidelines proposed by the RABDF included gross costs such as feed, forage, bedding, and vet’s bills; operational costs like labour (£10 an hour deemed a reasonable figure to factor into the equation, given the level of skills required in dairying), machinery, depreciation, property-related, unpaid family labour and resource costs: rent, quota leasing and finance costs. Mr Brigstocke urged producers to adopt these guidelines to arrive at a realistic picture of how much their businesses were costing them.

A Lancashire dairy farmer contacted this site to voice concern about the very differently focussed RABDF of 2017 and its ‘elitist style’.

RABDF, now described as the ‘the new secretariat to the Trehane Trust’, is advertising its October conference in Birdcage Walk London for ‘leading farmers’ who are to be granted the opportunity to ‘rub shoulders’ with policy makers and supply chain leaders. The conference will be held in conjunction with the Trehane Trust which funds research into all aspects of the dairy supply chain, from production to new product development and consumer trends in the dairy sector – but the crucial subject of farmgate prices is not listed.

One of the invited speakers at this most opulent venue (above) is from Arla – a downward trend-setter, announcing a price reduction for the April payment – the first milk price drop in 2017 by a major UK milk buyer. A further online search will reveal that this company has closed several processing plants making hundreds of workers unemployed, though the net profit of the Arla Group last year was €356 million.

The key findings of Trehane Fellowship recipient Mike Houghton of Andersons will be included. He has been researching future options and opportunities for the sector at home and abroad, using his contacts in Canada and the USA to find out more about their support systems, in particular crop insurance schemes and futures markets and consulting key people within the legal profession and the insurance industry to obtain a different perspective on the topic. 

Tim Brigstocke is now RABDF’s policy director

When this ‘Business and Policy Conference’ has taken place, will he help the RABDF to come down to earth in the interests of the average dairy farmer – arguably an endangered species?

In the interests of food security, will the RABDF present the facts about rising costs but low and fluctuating farmgate prices to the complicit policy makers and supply chain leaders, with whom wealthy farmers are being invited to rub shoulders?

Or will they continue their failed policies as the dairy sector continues to decline and foreign importers take over?

 

 

 

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Government must address the threat to Britain’s fresh food supply: Ian Potter’s advice

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milk farmers leaveFarming 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.

price milk 14-15

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.

ian potterInitially 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.

hollande with farmers

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