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It was perhaps inevitable there would be a little friction between FFA’s David Handley and AHDB’s Gwyn Jones at our Great Milk Debate at the Dairy Show.
And they didn’t disappoint. Mr Jones saw the blue sky horizon and wanted to seize the opportunity presented by global markets, while Mr Handley wondered what the benefit of unplanned extra production was especially as he has spent the last few months, with NFU help and sleeves rolled up, dealing with the here and now trying to wring a little bit more life-saving cash out of retailers.
The fundamental question was how do we clamber onto that global stage without a greater degree of co-ordination, innovation and competiveness, especially as our currency disadvantage viz the eurozoners doesn’t look like ending any time soon.
But maybe things are changing as we see Muller Wiseman’s acquisition of Dairy Crest’s liquid business showing that three into two does go.
It is, says Dairy Crest, a ‘transformational moment which will help create a more sustainable UK dairy sector’. Well, we jolly well hope so given our present precarious state.
Muller will now take on Dairy Crest’s 1.1 billion litres to create a business of over 3.3 billion litres and around 2000 farmers which should give it a fair bit of clout.
Unfortunately, while it may bring some much needed economies, it won’t bring an end to the supermarket price war and the wholesale devaluation of our milk.
The industry needs more money coming in at the top to filter down to the bottom to generate optimism and the investment that goes with it.
Only then will we see heads raised and a start to seek out those global opportunities!
Peter Hollinshead, Dairy Farmer editor