14 April 1995

MM alone on levy collection fee

By Shelley Wright

MILK Marque is the only big organisation demanding an administration fee for collecting the Milk Development Council levy.

The UKs main dairy companies, buying milk directly from farmers, have said they will collect the levy without charge.

Senior milk buyer with Nestlé, John Baverstock insisted that his company would collect the 0.04p/litre levy as a service for its producers.

And Northern Foods is adamant that it will not make any charge. "We feel strongly that the maximum amount of levy money should go towards the research and development for which it was intended," said a company spokesman.

But Northern could not deduct any money from its members without their authority, he added. "We will write to our producers and inform them of our intention to deduct the levy on their behalf. If they dont want this, and would prefer to pay the MDC directly, then they must tell us," he said.

Unigate and Avonmore also agreed that they would collect the levy without charging the MDC.

MD Foods director, Roger Clarke said he had not yet determined how much it would cost MD to administer the levy. But he said his initial thoughts were that he would not want to charge.

In Scotland, according to MDC member Alex Brown, all milk buyers have indicated they would collect the levy as a free service.

The only organisation that may join Milk Marque in charging for levy collection is The Milk Group. An official insisted that, with limited resources, the group would have to ensure its costs were covered. This, he suggested, would mean charging the MDC for any new computer software needed to cope with levy collection.

But MDC chairman, John Moffitt has already made it clear that the council is more than happy to cover such costs.

Milk Marque claimed it would charge an administration fee because it was a commercial organisation. But it could earn more than £50,000 a year simply by handling the levy money. MM pays its members on the 20th of each month but does not have to pay the levy to the MDC until the month-end, leaving it 10 days a month to collect interest on the money.

MDC members fear that if MM continues to demand a fee other organisations will eventually follow suit, diluting the funds available for the councils work. &#42