8 February 2000
Accept boom and bust, farmers told
By FWi staff
DAIRY farmers have been urged to accept that their incomes will go boom and bust while the current intervention system exists.
Neil Davidson, chief executive of Express Dairies, dismissed producers claims that processors were the “bad boys” of the dairy industry.
Companies have been accused of profiteering while farmers struggle. But the Competition Commission has said that retailers are charging a fair price for milk.
Mr Davidson said support under the Common Agriculture Policy had not changed since 1994 although milk prices have been eroded by the strong Pound.
“While the actual level has not changed one bit in terms of support prices, the sterling translation has changed enormously,” he told BBC radio.
“The CAP means farmers will go through boom and bust cycles.”
Milk prices are as low as 16ppl. Mr Davidson said that arguments between farmers and processors were further damaging the industry.
“I dont think debates about power in the system are very helpful. What we need to see is fundamental reform of the CAP, which sadly was put off.
“It doesnt look as if well get fundamental reform before 2008.”
Mr Davidson welcomed recommendations in last weeks Agriculture Select Committee report on the milk selling system in England and Wales.
The report showed the need for greater partnership between the producers, processors and retailers, he said.
“Partnership between dairy companies and farmers not only desirable but essential,” he insisted.
Mr Davidson said the Express Milk Partnership would help build up trust with farmers. But he admitted that producers would not receive higher milk prices.
The BBC also reported that concentrating on milk production rather than the overall health of the dairy cow has seen fertility decrease dramatically.
In the past 20 years fertility has reduced to such an extent that there is now only a 40% chance of conception, costing the industry 300 million a year.
Researchers at Nottingham University predict if the decline continues at the present rate, by 2045 no cows will calve.
Genetics, feeding and management all contribute to the problem, and the team is looking at these together in a bid to find a solution.