14 June 1996

MM producers line up for 0.25p year-end bonus

By Shelley Wright

MILK Marque producers will receive a bonus of 0.25p/standard litre for the milk they produced in the year to March 31. The year-end bonus will be paid in July, bringing the standard litre price for 1995-96 to 25.75p/litre for top quality milk.

Announcing the years results on Wednesday, Milk Marque also revealed that Oxon farmer Poul Christensen will take over as chair-man from August 1. He succeeds Ian Watson, who wont seek re-election as chairman but will stay on the board as director for the north.

The sale of 7475m litres produced a £1968m turnover for the year, with the average price to milk buyers up 0.6% to 26.33p/litre – an increase described by chief executive, Andrew Dare, as "miles below the rate of inflation".

He hit out at the continuing complaints from dairy firms about Milk Marques prices being too high. Milk price league tables showed companies like Northern Foods and Unigate paying more than Milk Marque and Mr Dare suggested the reason they kept complaining was to deflect attention away from the profits they were losing by sourcing milk direct.

He calculated that Unigate and Northern were both losing about £13m by taking milk from sources other than Milk Marque. The additional costs arose from higher milk prices, transport and administration, he claimed.

"If these firms are complaining about their profits then perhaps they should be looking a bit closer to home," said Mr Dare. And comparing the UK milk price with other EU countries, he said this country offered better value milk than anywhere else.

Responding to reports that Northern Foods had threatened to stop all sourcing from Milk Marque, Mr Dare said that was an example of where Northerns chair-man, Christopher Haskins, "occasionally gets it wrong by forgetting that dairy farmers are real people".

Producers were not always prepared to sell to just one customer. "If they did that then the big firms would just force the milk price down, which is why farmers co-operate through Milk Marque to make sure they dont come out second best," he insisted. Northerns aim of securing 100% of their milk direct from producers was "just a pipe dream".

Commenting on BSE, Mr Dare said there was no reason for a selective cull. If consumers were told a cull would remove cattle likely to develop BSE then they would expect the disease to disappear completely. But that would not happen immediately and could spark further concern. He estimated a cull of 80,000 cattle would cause a drop of about 2.5% in milk supplies. &#42