22 January 1999

MMC dairy inquiry – more delay

MORE uncertainty for the dairy industry this week as the Monopolies and Mergers Commission announced a months delay to its inquiry.

The Feb 26 deadline, by which the MMC must now report to government, is four months later than originally planned, with this marking the second extension.

Farmers immediately hit out at the move. "Quite extraordinary," says Michael Lambert, NFU milk committee chairman. "People will be dismayed and disappointed. It just continues the uncertainty for the whole industry."

Bad news could not have come at a worse time, he says. "It has been a horrendous winter with exceptionally low prices. Profitability is non-existent for many farmers."

Milk Marques managing director, Paul Beswick, said: "While this news is disappointing, it is no great surprise to us. The hearings continued almost until Christmas and the commission is still seeking clarification on some of the material for what promises to be a very weighty report."

Jim Begg of the Dairy Industry Federation said he was "anxious" to see the outcome as quickly as possible. "But it is a complex issue and the important thing is to get it right." &#42