Union backs dairy review

NFU Scotland is backing the ambitious and far-reaching recommendations made in the Scottish Dairy Review: “Ambition 2025”, launched in East Lothian this week.

Scotland’s Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, commissioned the review of Scotland’s dairy sector in November 2012 and James Withers, chief executive of the industry body Scotland Food & Drink, has chaired it.

At the report’s launch, hosted by the McCreery family on their dairy farm at Yester Mains, Gifford, Mr Withers laid out a series of 19 recommendations with the ambition of growing Scotland’s milk production base by 50 percent to 1.6 billion litres by 2025. A collaborative market-driven partnership involving farmers, milk processors, industry bodies, agencies and the Scottish government will be at the core of its successful delivery.

Milk currently accounts for 13 percent of Scotland’s agricultural output and milk and dairy products contribute more than £100 million to the value of the nation’s food and drink manufacturing.

NFUS milk committee chairman Gary Mitchell said: “The future challenges and opportunities for the Scottish dairy industry make the timing of this review ideal. Milk quotas across Europe will end in 2015, other dairying nations are already gearing up to tap into rising global demand for milk and dairy products and Scotland’s dairy farmers want to be part of that.

“Ambition 2025 recognises and looks to build on our clear potential to produce and process milk here in Scotland. We have a climate that suits milk production; there are core strengths amongst our farmers and processing base, we retain a strong home demand for fresh milk and dairy products and there is a terrific opportunity to build on added value markets both at home and abroad.

“The export success of whisky and salmon has created a platform that sales of high value, niche Scottish dairy products can build from and help meet the aspirations around driving the total value of Scottish food and drink exports to new levels.

“More effective collaboration up and down the supply chain will be the key to this review’s success. If all parties share in the vision of growing the market for Scottish dairy produce and jointly share in the risks and the benefits, that gives confidence to all parts of the chain to invest in their business for the future.

“To make the most of the growing market for Scottish dairy produce, farmers also need to make sure they look at strengthening their hand in that supply chain and that returns come back to farm level. The report has clear recommendations that look at bolstering the position and role of existing producer groups and the possible development of producer organisations as a way forward.

“And while the report gives a pat on the back to Scottish dairy farmers for their current level of efficiency on farm, we must make sure we remain competitive. While we are very good at producing milk, we can and must keep improving our efficiency at farm level. Stronger and better co-ordinated delivery of advice and support to grass roots dairy farming is a key recommendation in the report.

“Ambition 2025 is a positive, forward-thinking report that must generate momentum now if it is to be meaningful in the future. There must be no delay in the creation of a Scottish Dairy Growth Board, as recommended in the report, and the job of driving forward a unified Scottish dairy sector can truly begin.”