Scotland to get task force to address dairy industry crisis

A task force is to be set up in Scotland in order to try to deal with the “perfect storm” facing the country’s dairy farmers.

The Scottish government agreed to the move following a crisis summit held in Edinburgh on Tuesday (15 March), chaired by communities minister Paul Wheelhouse and attended by government officials and senior representatives from NFU Scotland, processors and retailers.

The meeting was arranged after a desperate plea for assistance from the industry, with the cost of milk production now outstripping its farmgate price thanks to a combination of oversupply and decreasing demand from key global markets.

Following the meeting, NFU Scotland milk policy manager George Jamieson said: “The reality is the market will not recover quickly enough for some.

“That means the supply chain must address this challenge collectively and ensure producers are paid a milk price that is as high as possible, rather than as low as some buyers think they can get away with.

“The volatile market cannot be managed, but a fairer margin share can be addressed.”

See also: Scots Dairy Action Plan unveiled

Last year, the Scottish government launched a dairy action plan with five key aims – market development, promoting best practice, promoting transparency and efficiency in the supply chain, supporting the troubled farmers’ co-operative First Milk and addressing international rules.

Now it is to take that a step further through the formation of a dedicated task force.

Mr Wheelhouse said it was clear during the meeting that there were “acute challenges facing the sector right now and there is a short-term issue that needs to be addressed immediately”.

“I will take forward the NFU Scotland’s request for Scottish government support of an industry-led task force to the Cabinet secretary and explore it further with officials,” he said.

Mr Jamieson added: “We would want that focused group to address the severe financial pressures on dairy, particularly in the short term, but also to drive innovative thinking longer term.”

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