UK – Processing capacity is at the forefront of two forward thinking action plans for UK milk and dairy supply chains.
Politicians in Scotland and a plethora of industry stakeholders in Wales have flagged up the issue in respective documents outlining measures to make their dairy sectors strong and viable in the years ahead.
Released this week, Scotland's Dairy Action Plan and A Review of the Dairy Sector in Wales put forward 25 and 26 points respectively about how to build a unified and sustainable sector to cope with market volatility and meet changing consumer demands.
Welsh deputy minister for farming and food, Rebecca Evans, accepted the report on Wednesday and with it the proposal to form a Welsh Dairy Leadership Board.
Scotland will focus on the future of farmer owned cooperative First Milk, while analysts will assess the viability of a dairy processing plant in South West Wales.
“We want to grasp the opportunity that the domestic market offers for our high-value products as well as accessing the lucrative overseas markets,” said Rural Affairs Secretary for Scotland, Richard Lochhead.
Both reports work across five main themes, with Scotland headlining Supporting First Milk in transforming its operation in Scotland as a distinct theme.
This will impact the success of another key aim - outlining a plan to introduce a dairy brand for Scottish produce by October.
The report said: “Securing a thriving future for the company is important for the sector as a whole. Achieving that will require actions, not only by the company itself, but by several other players in the chain.”
High on farmer priorities are the Campbeltown creamery works and expensive and costly milk haulage issues for farmers on Scottish islands, as flagged by NFU Scotland this week.
The Union called on the government to clarify the level of assistance and timescale for delivery at the creamery and urgent help for island producers.
In a SWOT analysis of the Welsh dairy sector, a lack of a major milk buyer was top of the list of threats.
Farmers and Industry: Positive Reaction
One recommendation, emphasised by Aled Jones, NFU Cymru Milk Board chairman, was to complete a feasibility study on a “market driven” dairy processing plant in South West Wales by December 2015. An expected increase of 400 million litres of milk per annum will be produced by Welsh farmers by 2020.
Mr Jones sees the report as providing “a valuable opportunity” to start tackling the “problems and gaps” in the sector to ensure a “fairer, more sustainable” future dairy industry.
Both reports have been welcomed by farmers and industry alike. Responding to the Welsh report, Dairy UK chief Executive, Dr Judith Bryans said the level of support shown by the Welsh government is “encouraging for the whole sector”.
“The Welsh Government’s response sends a positive message to the dairy industry,” said Dr Bryans.
“By welcoming the recommendations made in the independent review, it recognises the importance of the dairy sector for the economy. It also recognises that innovation, both at farming and at processing level, will be essential for the sustainable growth of the Welsh dairy sector.
“The establishment of a Welsh Dairy Leadership Board will create a sound leadership framework to foster growth and innovation and to help the industry excel on the world stage.”
However, time is a critical factor for dairy farmers, according to NFU Scotland’s milk committee chairman, Graeme Kilpatrick.
“Time is of the essence and today’s dairy plan recommendations must be progressed with the utmost urgency,” said Mr Kilpatrick.
“For those dairy farmers contemplating their future in milking cows the plan sets out aspirations that will be of future benefit if the right groundwork is in place.”
“Work to progress a Scottish dairy brand must be underpinned by investment in processing capacity in Scotland so that we have the ability to produce both commodity and added value goods from Scottish milk closer to our own milk fields. The Scottish Government’s intention to actively encourage investment in new and diverse processing must bring speedy results."
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