6 June 1997

Collection charges rise

hit smaller producers

BOTH candidates standing for election as Milk Marque board director for the west of England area have pledged to look at the impact of increased collection charges on smaller producers.

Somerset producer Finn Christensen said a more imaginative look at the issue was needed.

"First of all we need to convert all the small ones to alternate day collection. Then another possibility is to encourage them to convert to organic milk production. We are desperate for organic milk at 27p to 28p a litre and many of those small producers are almost organic already."

Farms near a village or small town could opt for doorstep delivery and many could qualify to sell greentop milk or other niche market products.

"Its just the same as the village shop, if we dont use these smaller farms we will lose them," he added.

North Devon producer Ranald Fowler said the rise in charges had hit producers harder because it had coincided with falling milk prices.

"I have said that if I am elected I will on their behalf ask to see the figures on which the £11 fee a collection is based, and report back to them, though Milk Marque assure me they have done their sums correctly.

"I feel desperately concerned, in fact I feel quite emotional, about the prospects for all small farmers not just milk producers," added Mr Fowler.

"It is a social problem created by world market forces and we must get government to understand the seriousness of the situation and the need for urgent action to help the smaller farms."

Both candidates said Milk Marques decision to seek tenders for processing surplus milk into products suitable for intervention was sensible in the short term.

Mr Christensen said in the longer term he would like the milk used for higher value products or retailed as whole milk.

Voting closes today (Fri) and faxed forms are acceptable.n