Bute dairy farmers ‘losing sleep’ over milk crisis

Robert Macintyre gives evidence to the Scottish Parliament's rural affairs, climate change and environment committee on the crisis facing dairy farmers on Bute.
Robert Macintyre gives evidence to the Scottish Parliament's rural affairs, climate change and environment committee on the crisis facing dairy farmers on Bute.

Dairy farmers on Bute are losing sleep because of the financial implications of the milk price crisis, MSPs have been told.

Robert Macintyre, also one of the island’s three Argyll and Bute councillors, spelled out the bleak situation while giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s rural affairs committee on Wednesday.

Cllr Macintyre said many Bute dairy farmers were “totally disillusioned” after seeing First Milk - the co-operative of which they are all members - cut the price it pays to farmers from 32.35 pence a litre in January 2014 to 20.98p now, and quadrupled the ‘capital contribution’ levied by the company.

“Where do we go from here?” he asked the committee.

“We are depending on First Milk for our survival. That is the case - I mean survival. We are faced with the summer and with buying fertiliser to make next year’s silage. Where is the money coming from?

“There are 13 producers on the island of Bute. To project a year forward, £2 million will come off our bottom line. That £2 million is essential for all tenants to pay a rent to Bute Estate and buy all our inputs: fuel, feed and fertiliser.

“It is a very worrying situation, which some of us are losing sleep over.”

Wednesday’s committee meeting also heard from George Jamieson, milk policy manager for NFU Scotland; Robert Graham from Graham’s Family Dairy in Bridge of Allan; Kenneth Campbell, a dairy farmer from Castle Douglas; James Withers, chief executive of Scotland’s Food and Drink; Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of Dairy UK; Graeme Jack, corporate affairs director of Muller UK & Ireland Group; and First Milk vice-chairman and farmer director Nigel Evans.