6 September 2002

Co-ops need touch of steel

MILK co-ops need to become more ruthless and improve their marketing, according to one of the regions leading dairy farmers.

Lancashire NFU milk committee chairman Peter Bell says the milk co-op syndrome has had one foot too firmly embedded in the ethos of the Milk Marketing Board and concentrated more on attracting farmer members rather than focusing efforts on how the milk is marketed.

Although a direct seller to Wisemans Dairies, Peter Bell acknowledges the important role played by the establishment of the co-ops.

"I know direct sellers come in for criticism but Im concerned about the future of co-ops which are acting simply as milk brokers," he said.

Southern success

"Some co-ops like Farmlink in the south, have proved what can be achieved. Through necessity theyve had to get more involved in processing and it has given them greater stability," said Mr Bell who farms at Pilling, near Preston.

He believes co-ops must adopt a more aggressive approach to marketing.

"If that means getting into processing then theres no time to lose. Weve had seven years talking about moving more milk into processing and very little has happened.

"Too many co-ops have become suppliers of last resort. They simply provide the balance of supply to the dairies and thats a very unstable situation to be in. Co-ops must find a guaranteed home for the milk its members are producing."