16 July 1999

Mixed views on Marque future

By FWreporters

CONFLICTING views on the future of Milk Marque have emerged in the wake of the publication last week of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report.

Some producers, including Terrig Morgan, the vice-chairman of the NFU milk committee, have decided to leave the co-op, while others remain determined to stay put and fight for the organisations right to move into milk processing.

Mr Morgan, who farms in Flintshire, north-east Wales, resigned from Milk Marque last month because he was unhappy with delays in moving into processing. He has yet to sign over his 800,000-litre production to another buyer.

"I resigned with extreme reluctance. I totally support the principle of co-operation, and like others have suffered price penalties as a result.

"Sadly, since publication of the MMC report, there is a feeling that nobody wants to be Milk Marques last member in the area with responsibility for putting out the lights," Mr Morgan said.

Michael Lambert, chairman of the unions milk committee, stopped selling to Milk Marque "some time ago". The decision, he said, was unrelated to the findings of MMC report. It was a result of other non-farming directors of his Surrey-based dairy unit questioning why the price paid by Milk Marque was so low.

Mansel Raymond, chairman of the NFU Cymru-Wales, said the uncertainty caused by the MMC report meant that many producers who had been hovering on the brink of quitting dairy farming would probably now decide to call it a day.

"Producers who accepted lower prices to keep faith with the concept of a vertically integrated co-operative have had their optimism shattered," he said.

A Milk Marque spokesman acknowledged there was uncertainty in the market but said it was premature for producers to leave the co-op.

"I do not think now is time to make that decision," he said.

This view has been endorsed by a number of producers in the West Country.

Derek Mead, a Somerset farmer and vice-chairman of the Dairy Crest Milk Producing Shareholders Association, said Milk Marque should throw the MMC report in the bin and get on with what its members wanted it to do.

He would not be deserting the co-op and was appalled to learn that the chairman and vice-chairman of the NFU milk committee had done so.

Devon producer David MacBean, chairman of the NFUs south-west milk committee, said he and many others were determined to stick with Milk Marque.

"They (MM) should get on with [processing] and look after those of us who have put up with the lower price for so long. I hope Milk Marque ignores this report," he said.