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The fact that EFRA chairman Neil Parish was snubbed in his committee’s recommendation for transitional funding to help producers compete in the immediate post- Brexit period gives us an intriguing insight into industry’s standing with Government.
That’s because its response caused Mr Parish to say Defra was ‘palming off’ responsibility for supporting the industry to another Government department in what seems like a classic case of ball and long grass.
The EFRA Committee is presumably apprehensive about achieving an economically smooth Brexit transition, and fearful we will end up competing with our European neighbours who come armed with a comprehensive support package tucked in their back pockets.
Closer to home we face the prospect of a Sainsbury- Asda merger which can only increase the buying clout of the resulting giant, especially since part of its openly stated mission is to reduce costs by 10% on ‘many’ commonly bought items.
Which brings us back to the Government and its desire to beef up milk contracts in an attempt to impose some balance into this mostly dysfunctional trading.
On one hand we have the NFU through dairy chair Michael Oakes saying: “It is clear some buyers can’t be trusted to deliver fair contract terms and they continue to use and abuse farmers as a tool to manage their own business risk.”
Which is pretty strong stuff and a measure of the degree of the desire to inject greater even-handedness into the power brokering that overshadows these relationships, especially after the Voluntary Code failed to address such shortcomings.
But not so, chimes Dairy UK which represents the all-embracing triumvirate of purchasers, processors and producers.
“The regulation of contracts under the CMO would make the industry less competitive and in all likelihood expose dairy farmers to even greater levels of price volatility.”
With Government wanting an early resolution to the matter, it doesn’t bode well for harmony breaking out any time soon!