Dairy sector future

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GENERAL…
Retailers have been urged to demonstrate their commitment to Scotland’s dairy producers after only one company took part in a high level industry meeting in Edinburgh today.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead made the call after hosting a Dairy Industry Stakeholders event in Edinburgh, where delegates discussed measures aimed at promoting a sustainable future for Scotland’s dairy sector.

Speaking after the event, Mr Lochhead said:

“Today’s meeting was well timed given the challenges currently facing Scotland’s dairy producers.

“Input costs are rising while some retailers are using milk as their bargaining chip in the ongoing battle for market share.

“The Scottish Government is taking action to ensure a sustainable future for the dairy sector. Two major initiatives we covered today – the carbon footprint research project and the Scottish Dairy Skills Academy – provide clear evidence of the commitment we are making in this area.

“Both projects show that there are areas where the efficiency of the production process can be enhanced to improve margins.

“We also had a useful debate on sustainability opportunities, with all parts of the supply chain offering us their views, including Morrisons, which remains the only major retailer willing to engage with primary producers and processors in such discussions in open session.

“The fact that the other retailers failed to participate today is very disappointing, especially within the context of ‘social responsibility’ towards the sector. However, I will continue to press them for evidence that they are taking their responsibilities to primary producers seriously.

“I will be writing to all retailers asking that they report back to me before the end of the year listing their own actions to implement the Retailers Charter, which they signed up to in 2009.”

Mr Lochhead added that he would press the EU Commission to implement the recommendations of the EU High Level Group to strengthen the bargaining power of dairy producers and that he would be also be raising the ongoing problems within the dairy supply chain – and the pressing need for the Groceries Code Adjudicator to have real teeth – with Defra Secretary of State Caroline Spelman when they meet tomorrow.