Bute dairy farmers to meet minister as milk crisis grows

First Milk has cut the price it pays to Bute's dairy farmers from 32.5p per litre to 18.5p since June 2014.
First Milk has cut the price it pays to Bute's dairy farmers from 32.5p per litre to 18.5p since June 2014.

Dairy farmers on Bute will have the chance to express their concerns over falling milk prices to Scotland’s rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead.

The island’s 13 dairy farmers are among those hardest hit by the move by farming co-operative First Milk to cut the price it pays for its members’ milk to 18.5 pence a litre.

With 15.4 million litres produced on Bute in the course of a year, those 13 farmers are set to see their income fall by more than £2 million if milk prices don’t recover soon.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell, who raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, said: “Richard Lochhead has been very helpful in his attitude towards this problem. He readily agreed to meet a delegation from Kintyre and Bute to hear their particular problems and he will be asking the banks to be sympathetic.

“The international outlook for dairy products is positive but there is presently a global oversupply.

“In addition, First Milk has been poor marketers and managers, and they need to perform much more strongly in the interests of their suppliers, as every farmer involved with them has also got a capital stake in the business.

“I have also today written to the convener of the rural affairs committee asking him to hold a special committee session at which the supermarkets could appear and be questioned on their approach.

“Richard Lochhead agreed with me that it is time milk was realistically priced. It is obviously not cheaper to produce milk than water, but milk presently costs less than mineral water in some shops, which is a disgrace and a distortion of the market. Such cynical undermining of the Scottish dairy industry must stop.”