19 January 2001
2000 farmers ditch dairy firms

By Robert Harris

TWO THOUSAND dairy farmers are expected to tear up their milk supply contracts with dairies and start selling to cooperatives instead.

Members of the ADF group, which supplies Express, Wiseman, Arla and Nestlé, intend to transfer 1.5 billion litres of milk to Scottish Milk/Axis.

The move, which involves about 10% of the UKs raw milk production, would mark a massive boost for the co-operative sector.

Scottish Milk/Axis would control about 25% of the national supply, boosting its overall volume to about 3.6bn litres.

Overall, farmer-controlled co-ops would sell about two-thirds of the countrys farm milk, according to estimates.

ADF represents about 2000 farmers who sell direct to processors. It was formed last August to give members a more powerful lobbying voice.

Despite persistent calls for better milk prices, dairy companies were too slow to raise milk prices, and farmers are likely to vote with their feet.

Representatives of ADF groups voted on Thursday (18 January) to start supplying Scottish Milk/Axis from July.

A series of meetings will be held throughout February to persuade members to rubber-stamp the decision.

Other large direct supplier groups, are expected to follow ADFs lead.

Midlands-based Association of Milk Producers and West Country Milk Producers are talking to the Milk Group and Milk Link.

The new co-op system would put an end to inefficient processing which has held the industry back, said ADF chairman John Loftus.

“All processors will compete for supplies on equal terms. The most efficient will prosper,” he added.

Several smaller groups have already switched their allegiance.

The north country-based Waterford Farmers Association recently took about 100m litres away from Express to Scottish Milk.

The Essex and Hertfordshire and Surrey, Kent and Sussex (SKS) groups switched a similar amount from Arla to the Milk Group.