UK Dairy farming needs a national strategic plan for the future if it is to succeed in the global market, according to RABDF chairman Lyndon Edwards.

Speaking at a press briefing at this week’s Dairy Event and Livestock Show, Mr Edwards said following the dissolution of talks with other bodies, RABDF would press ahead and devise its own national plan.

“As one of the most efficient milk producing countries in the world, the UK is in the position to turn on the tap of production, but this can’t happen unless farmers know which direction the industry is heading in.”

The strategic plan will set out clearly the challenges and opportunities facing the sector and then provide a strategic set of aims and objectives with clear approaches to implementation, monitoring and evaluation, he added.

“We hope the plan will instil in dairy farmers a new spirit of optimism and stop the continuing decline in producer numbers. It will be designed to avoid the distortion of future policy documents, harmonise decisions made by the four constituent parts of the UK and avoid the implications of individual approaches being taken.”

But while there clear efficiencies being gained at farm level, there was still room for improvement in the processing sector, claimed Mr Edwards. “I believe there is room for further consolidation as well as innovation within the processing sector, particularly among the farmer coops. Failing to achieve these efficiencies opens the door to imports of both processed products and liquid milk.”

“There is also room for further cooperation and improved efficiencies in the supply chain.”

On the subject of TB, Mr Edwards said it was totally unacceptable that there was to be no immediate action to tackle the disease in the wildlife population. “Despite DEFRA claiming vaccine plans are on course for 2012, both cattle and badger vaccines are at least six years away because the legislative process can take up to three years,” he claimed.

“Add to that the three to five years it will take for the vaccine to impact over badgers’ lifespan and it will be 2020 before any real benefits are achieved. By this time, if TB continues to escalate at the current rate, a further 2m cattle could have been unnecessarily culled.”