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Union calls on the dairy supply chain to deliver positive price messages in 2022 for Scottish farmers

By David Porter

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NFU Scotland is calling on the dairy supply chain to deliver positive price messages in 2022 that fully reflect tightening supplies and soaring costs.

Progress on milk contracts and milk prices is needed in 2022
Progress on milk contracts and milk prices is needed in 2022

Next year will also see the Union continue to press Defra and work with other UK farming unions to make the statutory Milk Purchasing Code and new dairy contracts a reality.

Progress on both price and contracts are essential if dairy farmer numbers are to stabilise.

AHDB released their October 2021 producer figures based on the number of levy-paying farmers and only 8000 herds remain in Great Britain with 310 dairy farmers having quit in the past 12 months. See: https://ahdb.org.uk/dairy/uk-producer-numbers.

This is against the backdrop that Scotland now has only 836 herds, and this figure may reduce further when the Scottish Dairy Cattle Association release their end-of-year figures soon.

The recent dairy report from Kite Consultancy named Project Reset stressed that input cost price rises in the dairy industry are rampant from primary farm level through to dairy processors, and it is unreasonable to expect that these costs should be sucked up by processors and farmers.

See: https://www.kiteconsulting.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Kite-Project-Reset-report-FINAL.pdf

NFU Scotland vice president Andrew Connon said: “The first quarter of 2022 will be a pivotal time for all.

"While we welcome the fact that milk prices have increased across the board in the last few weeks of 2021, the reality is that on farm costs have matched and, in some cases, outstripped these increases. Feed, fertiliser, fuel, and labour costs are escalating at an alarming rate of knots.

“We have consistently stated that the supply chain from consumer to cow must change. A fair on-shelf price for milk will deliver for all including the retailer, processor, and primary producer.

“Tightening supplies also support the drive for milk prices to be closer to 40p per litre than 30p. AHDB report that GB milk deliveries are now running 3.6 per cent below the same week last year – equivalent to 1.21 million litres. With spot milk currently trading at above 45p per litre, the signals are clearly there for all to see.

“This is not a situation unique to GB.

"Dairy markets in the EU-27 have seen strong price increases in recent months, as limited growth in milk supplies has constrained production of most dairy products.”

On statutory milk contracts, the UK Government and Devolved Administrations have published their response to last year’s consultation seeking views from dairy farmers and processors about how contracts and relationships could be improved.

See: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/dairy-industry-contractual-relationships

Defra are now working towards a UK Milk Purchasing Code, which will be made by regulation using the powers under section 29 of the Agriculture Act 2020.

Commenting on NFU Scotland’s commitment to driving this forward, Mr Connon said: “Our milk committee subgroup for contracts continues to spend a huge amount of time on this, working in conjunction with stakeholders including Defra and Scottish Government.

"Our collaboration with the other farming Unions ensures we keep moving forward with the ambition to get this to a favourable position for all.

“The introduction of well-considered, appropriate legislation regarding dairy contracts between dairy farmers and milk buyers is essential.

“It will create the foundations of a modern, thriving dairy industry based on contracts that, through free and equal negotiation and in good faith, have been agreed by all for the benefit of all in the supply chain.”

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