SCOTLAND – Scottish dairy farming has cause for optimism following the announcement of ambitious expansion plans after a review of the nation’s dairy industry.
Ministers have called for a 50 per cent increase in Scotland’s milk output by 2025 in Ambition 2025, a growth strategy for gearing up to a more competitive global market.
The new target would require Scotland's milk pool to produce 1.6 billion litres a year.
Key recommendations of the report include:
• Targeting key priority export markets to maximise opportunities and trade
• Developing an independent Scottish Dairy Bureau to provide information, advice and training
• Formalising the structure of dairy producer groups
• A new leadership structure for the sector, with an experienced business leader chairing a Scottish Dairy Growth Board to oversee the development of ‘Ambition 2025’
• Emphasising the benefits of drinking milk to improve Scotland’s health
Farmers have welcomed the announcement as they hear of other nations gearing up for expansion.
Jim Begg, Dairy UK director general said: “I warmly welcome the scope and ambition of this important and authoritative report.
“The Scottish food and drink industry is currently enjoying a period of unparalleled success. This will be the firm foundation on which the future development of the industry will be based."
Furthermore, NFU Scotland milk chairman Gary Mitchell said that Scotland has the ideal production conditions necessary and that farmers should take the opportunity to expand domestic and export sales.
He added that sales of whisky and salmon are testament to the popularity of ‘niche’ Scottish food products and hoped that value-added dairy products can follow suit.
But he said that farmers are required to do their bit in the drive for efficient production: “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," said Mr Mitchell.
He stressed that, to be meaningful, the report must be acted on now.
“Ambition 2025 is a positive, forward-thinking report that must generate momentum now if it is to be meaningful in the future,” said Mr Mitchell. “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.”
The recommendations stem from a review started last November, commissioned by the Scottish rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead.
Food and Drink Chief Executive, James Withers started the project with optimism, expressing desire to prevent any continued suffering in what has been a ‘decade of frustration' for Scottish dairying.
Mr Withers said that there is no ‘magic wand’ for change but, with cooperation across the board, a 'new vision’ can be developed for the industry.
Mr Withers said: "What we need now is a clearer focus and a collective desire to consider real change.
"That means developing a long term growth plan for the sector and challenging existing ways of doing business."
“We need to think about what we could and should produce in this country, what markets we should target – here and overseas – and how we better structure ourselves.”
However, milk is only part of a larger short term agri-business expansion. Last week, the government announced a growth target of the general food and drinking sector of £16.5 billion by 2017.
Rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead said Scottish food and drink enjoys a world reputation and that this bodes well at a time of fresh demand for premium products globally.
In terms of next steps, Mr Lochhead said: “It is now important that we look at this report and formulate a plan to help support further growth of Scotland’s dairy sector, and I plan to do this in the next few weeks.”
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