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Dairy Farmer magazine's May 2020 digital edition

Don’t miss this month’s new look Dairy Farmer. Take a look at the digital edition today.

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A word from the Editor

There’s no denying that some sort of lockdown was inevitable to curb the exponential rise in potential Covid-19cases, but such a radical move has thrown up all sorts of other problems. Perhaps what was not so obvious at the time was the magnitude of the havoc it was to wreak on so many agricultural sectors, especially perishable goods such as milk. Part of that unknown was the limited extent to which supplies to any food service dairy could be absorbed by the rest of the processing sector without infringing constrictive competition legislation. Hence the inevitable quickfire response of 2ppl cuts and delayed payments cascading out of affected dairies, leaving producers to work with the brutal realisation that if no tanker turns up for your milk then it’s not being collected. So what’s to be done? Well the NFU is pushing Defra and its Secretary George Eustice hard for a workable resolution and, last week, put forward a four-point plan. First was a plea for the newly introduced grant and loan schemes to be opened more widely so milk producers would be eligible like any other business. In addition, Defra was urged to look at relaxing the competition rules with a view to helping facilitate the flow of available milk through the supply chain to where it could be utilised. But the biggest plank in its platform is what the NFU terms a ‘national production reduction’ scheme, which consists of a proposal to ‘remove’ 20 million litres per week for 12 weeks at an initially suggested 15ppl for the production foregone. It is as yet unclear as to what the baseline will be, possibly last year’s supply, but the biggest hurdle undoubtedly will be securing Treasury buy-in. In the meantime, in an attempt to alleviate the situation, Muller has already sent a letter to its producers asking for a voluntary 3% reduction based on what is believed the week prior to the letter going out. Speed will be everything. Whatever the solution, it needs to be quick or we’ll face the catastrophe of market overhang colliding with spring flush and then we’ll be in real trouble.

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