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UK Statistics Authority rules dairy figures are ‘materially misleading’

UK Statistics Authority has asked Defra to remove the National Statistics badge from February’s dairy figures.



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UK Statistics Authority rules dairy figures are ‘materially misleading’

The authority ruled the ’presentation of the statistics for February 2016 in the 31 March bulletin was materially misleading.

 

It said due to the lack of contextual information it had ’concluded that the statistics do not reflect the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value that the National Statistics brand promises’.

 

The authority said it had required Defra to remove the National Statistics badge from that bulletin and the bulletin from February 2015.

 

Anger

 

In April, Farmers Guardian reported on anger from industry experts following Defra suggesting the farmgate milk price was up 10.8 per cent in February.

 

A Defra spokesman said the rise was due to the factoring in of bonus and 13th payments and it was ’happy to stand by’ the figures.

 

Dairy analyst Chris Walkland made an official complaint.

 

At the time, he slammed the Government department for making it appear as though UK dairy farmers were receiving a good price at one the industry’s lowest ebbs.

 

He said: "This is an absurd figure. To suggest the milk price has gone up by 10.8 per cent is a joke

 

"If it is not changed then it will just mean the general media asks what dairy farmers are moaning about. It also allows other countries to have a distorted view of how our farmers are doing."

 

Improvements

 

The UK Statistics Authority said Defra had made improvements in more recent publications and ’has committed to ensuring that its future publications of February data are not misleading’.

 

"We have also been pleased that Defra is engaging with users about these statistics, and we will look for Defra to enhance the clarity of its explanation in future bulletins," it said in a statement.

 

Despite the ruling in his favour, Mr Walkland fears the damage has already been done.

 

"I have found a House of Commons document that was written in April which actually cites the figure," he added.

 

"The document is available to all MPs."

 

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) supported Mr Walkland’s complaint.

 

TFA North West Chairman and dairy farmer Robert Martin welcomed the findings.

 

"We were all amazed and confused with what DEFRA produced in its statistical notice but despite our protestations Defra appeared to be unrepentant.

 

"These notices are used by dairy farmers not only in their negotiations with their processors but also in other types of negotiations like rent reviews. When spurious information is issued this causes real problems.

 

"I am pleased that this matter has been rectified and look forward to having further discussions with Defra to ensure that such problems do not re-occur."


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