Safeguarding the milk sector in the face of Brexit was at the centre of talks between the four UK farming unions who recently met at Ingliston to discuss the main issues affecting the dairy sector.
In the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, last week’s tariff schedule announced by the UK Government could see dairy products enter the EU with a 30-40% tariff rate slapped on – which could see the dairy industry hit by a bill of around £500m.
Although the UK is a nett importer of dairy produce, it also exports milk, cheese, cream, butter and milk powder equivalent to around 4bn litres – with 3.2bn litres of that going to the EU.
Representatives from the four milk committees agreed that the uncertainty of Brexit has caused serious disruptions to the UK dairy sector by stifling trade, contributing to price fluctuations and putting the milk contract debate on hold.
The delay in the planned consultation on milk contracts has been attributed to Brexit which is causing huge frustration throughout the UK dairy industry – who had been expecting the consultation to begin early summer.
The agenda for the meeting included discussions on the change in Red Tractor standards, current milk volumes, processing concerns, milk contracts and an update on Brexit from the UK unions’ staff in Brussels.
Speaking after the meeting, NFU Scotland milk committee vice-chair, Gary Mitchell, said: “There was a very useful and robust discussion around the key topics facing the UK’s milk industry as a whole, with each union’s issue seeming to have a direct relation or comparison in the others.
“It is important that we work together on UK issues in order to best lobby on behalf of our dairy members, who are currently facing one of the toughest times we have seen since the market crashed.
“I would also like to thank Jim Moseley for attending the meeting and shedding some light on Red Tractor’s changes in standards. We need to work with organisations like Red Tractor to not only create standards which are best for the welfare of the animals, but also practical and farmer focused.”
The consensus on Brexit was there needs to be a suitable solution soon for markets to settle and for business to gain stability. UK dairy farmers need to know what they are working with in order to continue to produce the high-quality products they invest so much time and financial effort into, he added.
Dairy farmer and chair of NFUS Next Gen group, Colin Ferguson, agreed that clarity would help the sector: “The outcome of Brexit isn’t the biggest concern, but the uncertainty surrounding it. Farmers invest in the long-term and short-term politics isn’t favourable to that.
On the milk contract delay, he said: “The delay has been so frustrating, especially when we see what is happening with Tomlinson’s Dairies, with around 20 farmers having to look for a new processor to take their milk.
“Adding fuel to the fire with the recent tariff schedule, it would appear politicians are living in a bubble and not listening to the real world, despite being informed of the challenges which we now face. However, when these changes come in, we will all be on the same boat and we will have to ride out on the same wave.”
Source: The Scottish Farmer