Dairy UK director-general Jim Begg is facing calls for his resignation – and accusations that he is a major stumbling block to securing a better deal for milk producers.
Bringing together milk processors, farmers, co-operatives and bottle milk buyers, Dairy UK bills itself as the united voice of the UK dairy industry. But concern is growing among farmers that the organisation is giving farmers the thin end of the wedge.
Former NFU vice-president Gwyn Jones said dairy processors had systematically destroyed the milk market in a “race to the bottom” as they competed for market share using farmers’ money to finance losses. “While Jim Begg remains at Dairy UK, the culture of abuse will remain.”
Mr Begg was one of the major stumbling blocks to change, said Mr Jones. “Jim Begg presides over processors who are not competitive in manufacturing, do not export, have an island mentality to their industry – an industry that has and is still shrinking in production.”
Mr Jones, a dairy farmer from West Sussex, made his comments in an opinion piece written for the Farmers Weekly website. David Handley, chairman of the pressure group Farmers For Action, echoed the call for Mr Begg to resign.
“I think Dairy UK was supposed to be an organisation for milk processors and also meant to represent the views of farmer-owned businesses,” said Mr Handley. “But all Jim Begg has done is defend the interest of the milk processors.”
In a statement, Dairy UK said: “Gwyn Jones is entitled to his views, which he has expressed many times over the years. This is a very difficult and complex matter, and this kind of rhetoric is clearly unhelpful. Instead, we need a cool, rational debate on these issues.”