Landlord’s bid to help Bute dairy farmers may be too late

A landlord’s bid to help a group of struggling Scottish dairy farmers by cancelling their rent payments may have come too late.

The group of 13 dairy producers are based on the Isle of Bute and supply First Milk, which has cut prices by about 12p/litre in the past 12 months.

The cuts have left the Bute farmers in dire straits so estate owners, the Mount Stuart Trust, offered to delay rent payments due in November.

Estate factor Bob Baines said the intention of postponing assistance until November was to encourage farmers to continue to produce milk on the island.

“We believe by delaying the rent we stand a better chance of encouraging those who might be inclined to put their cows off to hang in a bit longer,” he said. “They now know the position so will be able to budget it into cashflows.”

Mr Baines added that the estate was also prepared to offer emergency assistance on an individual basis to farm tenants.

But tenants have the described the gesture as too late, and Robert Macintryre, a milk producer and Argyll and Bute Councillor, said the assistance would not help the 13 farmers who will struggle to pay their rents in just a few weeks time.

“We appreciate the efforts of the estate but the milk price collapse is biting on the island right now and most of us don’t know how we’re going to cope at the end of May, never mind November,” he said. “What we need is assistance right now.”

NFU Scotland’s milk committee chairman Graeme Kilpatrick welcomed the estate’s attempts to help, but echoed the farmers’ views.

“This is a positive move by Bute Estate, which demonstrates the depth of understanding. However, the immediate concern to farmers on the island will be their rent payments in May and we hope that Bute Estate will be understanding of the difficulties during what will be a real pinch point for many of the island’s producers,” he said.