7 September 2001

MDCs data service will make milk pricing clear

By Olivia Cooper

INFORMATION designed to put transparency into milk pricing is now available from the Milk Development Council after the launch of its new market information service this week.

MDC Datum aims to provide information to the dairy industry on supply and demand, market conditions and consumer issues of milk and milk products. This will help sellers achieve prices more in line with dairy markets, says the MDC.

The project was set up as a consequence of a report into milk pricing in 2000, which showed that market signals in the supply chain were "confused, slow and inadequate". Although it was originally scheduled to begin in April, MDC delayed the launch until new staff could establish a complete service ready for the public.

Data will be gathered from a wide range of industry experts, including government organisations and independent consultants. It will then be analysed and commented on by MDC staff.

"Many people who could not easily obtain market information will now have access to an up-to-date, accurate, and independent source," said Ken Boyns, head of MDC Datum. "Producers will not have to spend so much time researching the information they need, which will lead to savings of both time and cost."

Dairy farmer Gwyn Jones added: "Historically farmers have not been greatly involved in the technical details of trading. But this service should encourage them to follow market trends and gain a deeper understanding of the markets."

NFU Scotland milk committee chairman, Robin Christie, agreed. "MDC Datum will for the first time provide dairy farmers with access to a one-stop shop for clear and independent market information, which will be invaluable to their businesses."

The main service will be provided through a new web-site, www.mdcdatum.org.uk, and a fortnightly dairy market update will be available, with key information to be published in farmers weekly.

But some were not so pleased about the idea. The Dairy Industry Federation, which represents processors, claimed that the service might be anti-competitive and asked the Office of Fair Trading to investigate the scheme. But the OFT said it had no objection to it, and MDC Datum is now hoping to encourage dairy companies to become more involved.

Junior DEFRA minister, Lord Whitty, spoke at the London launch on Sept 5, and was pleased with the way the industry had identified the need for such information, and funded their own response to the problem.

"This type of forward looking professional approach is critical if the agricultural industry is to be successful and prosper," he said.

The MDC has allocated £150,000 to the set-up and running costs of Datum, which equates to just 4% of the 0.025p/litre levy paid by milk producers.

For further enquiries contact Ken Boyns on 01285-646500. &#42