21 April 2000

Ideas sought to lift milk prices

SCOTLANDS dairy farmers agree that they need better milk prices. But how to achieve the goal remains a mystery.

Last week, Scottish NFU leaders met more than 30 dairy farmers who represented producers selling to all the main milk buyers in Scotland.

Union president Jim Walker, who last month challenged dairy farmers to stop moaning about the past and to work together to create a better future, said co-operation and collaboration were the only solutions.

But while the union was prepared to help forward any constructive ideas from groups or individuals, the final decision lay with milk producers. If they wanted to continue selling to numerous outlets then there was little the Scottish NFU could do to help.

"If we are to help to deliver change, there must be a willingness by producers to take responsibility for this change," Mr Walker said.

Although the farmers at the meeting agreed on the need for a common solution to the current low prices, no other progress was made.

Next week (Wed, Apr 26) milk producers from the south-west have been invited to a union meeting in Castle Douglas, Dumfriesshire, to try to take the discussion forward.

Among the speakers will be John Loftus, the English dairy farmer behind the proposed new umbrella group the UK Federation of Milk Producers.

Meanwhile, details are still awaited on how the Scottish Executive plans to execute a £50,000 study, announced by Scottish farm minister Ross Finnie a fortnight ago, into the problems and opportunities facing Scotlands dairy industry.