Welsh quit as milk price sours

WELSH dairy farmers are getting a sour deal on milk prices and are quitting the industry in their droves.

A hard-hitting report published today (Monday, November 30) by the Welsh Assembly’s rural development sub-committee said a third of Welsh dairy farmers had quit the business over the last 5 years due to poor returns.

The report said a supermarket ombudsman would be essential to secure a fair and sustainable price for producers to survive into the future.

“We are seeing an alarming decline in our dairy industry for a variety of reasons but chief among them appears to be the disparity in payments to farmers for their produce compared to prices charged by retailers,” said committee chairman and Mid and West Wales AM, Alun Davies.

“We urge the Welsh Government to put pressure on the UK Government to establish a UK Ombudsman to protect producers’ interests,” he added.

The number of milk producers in Wales has fallen by a third between 2003 and 2008 from 2,845 down to 2,149 and the Assembly report lays out a number of proposals aimed at halting the trend.

Apart from the ombudsman, it calls for the Assembly to establish an independent ‘Welsh Dairy Champion’ to promote and represent the industry’s interests and for public bodies to increase the proportion of dairy products they procure locally.

Speaking at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Mr Davies recommended further investment to improve the sector’s efficiency and effectiveness.

He also highlighted the need to develop a new strategy to ensure proper training to attract an adequate number of qualified new entrants every year and more encouragement for farmers to concentrate on value added premium products rather than mass produced ones are also highlighted.

“What we would like to see is the Welsh Government encouraging demand for quality Welsh dairy products.

“We heard evidence of the energy put into promoting Welsh beef and lamb and would like to see similar efforts being made for Welsh cheese.

“We would also like to see the new Glastir agri-environmental scheme being made more accessible and attractive to dairy farmers,” he said.

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