Phil Latham: 'We must campaign for a fair deal with processors'


The sun is out, so are the low yielding cows and the fertiliser spreader is going at full tilt. It is a lovely time of year and I always feel there is a great burst of energy as we try to get things growing and head back towards the summer routine.


This spring has not been the easiest, with a dry early February giving way to heavy rain and ferocious winds. The silage shed roof started to disintegrate and we lost quite a few trees, but by far and away the scariest thing was an oncoming car taking off in full ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ style over a fallen tree and flying into the front of our Land Rover.


Fortunately, the damage was restricted to bent metal and wounded pride, and I guess the moral of the story is there is always another day, so stay at home when the weather is like that.


The NFU conference always provides food for thought and a cracking night out, though I was glad I did not wake up in the corridor in my pants this time. I was genuinely heartened by the positive outlook of some of the movers and shakers who think they can see real opportunities after Brexit and I was pleased to hear the positive impressions some of our Ministers made on industry leaders.


What concerned me was the lack of clarity on tariff-free access to the European market and access to non-UK labour, coupled with the blind faith our salvation lies in developing new export opportunities. It beggars belief that, with such good grass growing conditions at home, we still have the second largest dairy trade deficit in the world.


Ireland, with a population of Birmingham, manages to market more milk.


Based on the number of British dairy exhibitors in Shanghai in November, I would say politicians have a misplaced faith in the sector because the evidence was our processors are not hungry to innovate, add value and develop new markets.


It might be they are focused on our large domestic market, but I suspect it is because most processors have buyers’ discretion and exclusivity written into their contracts and they know they can meet their margin expectations by passing any pain back to farmer suppliers.


In order to thrive we must campaign to stop the abuse of contracts with an extension to the role of the grocery code adjudicator.

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