The milk price was going to peak at some stage, yet the nature of its first drop has sparked anger among farmers.
Muller’s 1.5ppl cut brought the milk price rollercoaster to a juddering halt and many will be nervous about how far and how fast it will drop.
Of almost greater concern, and one expressed by Muller farmer representatives this week, will be just who is in charge of the milk price ride and whether they value the views of producers.
When Muller took over Dairy Crest’s (DC) liquid business it amalgamated the robust DC farmer representative board in to the Muller Milk Group.
However, in November last year Farmers Guardian reported how non-aligned Muller producers had branded it a ’sham’ and were calling for greater farmer representation and communication. It now appears the mistrust remains.
Wider concerns over farmer representation are not just heard in the offices of Muller either. They exist across farming sectors and an effective voice for producers has always been a sticking point, whether that is in dairy or elsewhere.
Corporate giants may have farmer boards as part of their business structure, but for them to be effective farmers have to be able to win more than pyrrhic victories, and if their views are dismissed in favour of protecting the bottom line of the bigger business then it is no wonder we again hear the angry statements which emerged this week.
It also seems that every time the price moves downwards in dairy, the systemic distrust which exists between producers and processors comes to the fore.
Maybe the dairies know that farmers do not have the collective power to strike back, even when faced with seismic cuts, and that is why they continue to communicate in such a blunt and seemingly unexpected fashion.
Dairying is not currently in crisis, but it will never truly move forward if there continues to be an insidious lack of respect for producers and farmer distrust for processors in return.
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