NFU puts pressure on parliament over dairy industry

NFU Scotland met with Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) on Thursday to call on them to play an active part in securing the future of Scotland’s important dairy industry.

The session, held within the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, was sponsored by Alex Fergusson MSP, and attended by many MSPs from various constituencies.

The meeting heard from NFU Scotland’s Milk Committee Chairman Graeme Kilpatrick, a dairy farmer from Craigie in Ayrshire, who spoke about the importance of increasing the price paid to farmers for their milk, and of the prominence given to Scottish branded dairy products on supermarket shelves.

He told the MSPs that dairy farmers are facing exceptional circumstances. He called upon the MSPs to push the Scottish Government to assist the dairy sector where possible, and explained the impact the current crisis is having, not just on dairy farmers with smaller herds, but also larger farms and supplying industries too.

John Smith, of Drumalea Farm in Kintyre, highlighted the problems being faced by those on the peninsula, as well as Gigha and the Isle of Bute, as they have little option but to continue to supply the co-operative First Milk. First Milk has recently cut milk prices to its members and introduced higher capital investment charges.

Providing MSPs with a taste of delicious Mull of Kintyre cheddar, Mr Smith spoke of the lack of investment in Campbeltown Creamery and that further support is needed from the Scottish Government to improve the facilities.

NFU Scotland also urged MSPs to support calls for retailers and consumers to “buy in” to the great Scottish dairy produce available – a request that recognises 2015 as the Year of Scottish Food and Drink.

MSPs were made aware of the great potential of the Scottish dairy sector if the Scottish Government was to assist industry leaders in progressing innovation, investment and development of new products.

NFU Scotland’s Milk Committee Chairman Graeme Kilpatrick commented: “MSPs and all Scottish politicians have consistently spoken about their love for Scotland and we are now asking them to build on this passion by doing everything in their power to secure the future of the Scottish dairy sector.

“Consumers want to buy Scottish food and drink but we need retailers, processors and politicians to strongly promote our exquisite produce, while also assisting farmers and the wider chain by supporting innovation and investment in the sector.

“Today’s session focussed on informing MSPs of the current situation the dairy industry finds itself in, and through helping them understand what they can do to help, put pressure on those within the Scottish Government, and further afield to ensure our industry thrives in the future.

“We need Scottish products, like the fantastic Mull of Kintyre cheese we enjoyed today, in the prominent positions on our supermarket shelves, to make it easier for consumers to buy local produce and support Scottish farmers, ensuring that their retail spend stays within Scotland.

“Dairy farming in Scotland supports thousands of families and hundreds of communities and we need a committed approach from politicians to help ensure the whole dairy chain properly values Scottish milk and dairy products. We all need to work together to secure a bright future for Scotland’s dairy farming families.”

Alex Fergusson MSP, who sponsored the event said: “The Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee has just held an urgent inquiry into the situation, but it is important that those MSPs who have not been directly involved have the opportunity to find out for themselves just how serious the situation is.

“The fact that NFU Scotland is coming to Holyrood to give members this briefing sends out a strong signal on just how dire the situation is. As the Member for Galloway and Dumfries West, a constituency that produces a very significant percentage of Scotland’s milk, I can only commend the Union for taking this prompt action to ensure that we are kept up to date with the situation as it develops.” Ends