AHDB criticism prompts dairy plan revision

Levy board chiefs are to revise their plans for the dairy sector in response to criticism that it should do more to help producers ride out the slump in milk prices.

It comes after the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) said AHDB Dairy should introduce activities with “immediate effect” that enabled levypayers to survive the downturn.

The association made the recommendation in response to a consultation on AHDB Dairy’s proposed three-year business plan for 2016-19.

AHDB Dairy had proposed allocating almost 70% of its budget to research and development and knowledge transfer (R&D/KE), with 5% for export and trade development.

But RABDF said the plan put too much emphasis on R&D/KE and not enough emphasis on other activities which it felt were more pressing.

AHDB chief executive Jane King said the business plan would now be revised in light of the consultation, which closed on 13 January.

See also: Milk producers call for urgent help from AHDB

She said it was too early to say by how much the budget would be rejigged, but cautioned against spending more money on promotion.

“At the moment, there is a perception that spending money on promotion will be a panacea and it will change the market dynamics for dairy farming.

“For me, that is unkind and unfair – it is raising expectations that are ridiculous.”

Ms King added: “Spending large sums on money on promotion may do a number of things, but it isn’t going to have the impact on supply and demand that dairy farmers really need.

“We need to get real about that.”

The AHDB was ready to help milk processors increase exports, said Ms King.

“Our view is that there are a lot of opportunities to add value and we would like to work with processors. But it is noticeable that export development doesn’t really feature in their document.”

Ms King said AHDB took the challenge of market uncertainty and volatility seriously.

Chaired by AHDB Dairy chairman Gwyn Jones, it had initiated an industry-wide forum to find practical solutions and identify the tools to cope better with volatility on farm.

Ms King said: “A big priority is to help the industry understand the commodity cycle and its impact better, so we can improve our understanding of assessing and managing risk.

“We are looking at forward contracts, forward pricing, derivatives and co-operation.”

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