Local MSP to meet Bute dairy farmers

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell.

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Dairy farmers on Bute are to hold a meeting with local MSP Michael Russell this week after being told of yet another cut in the price they will receive for their milk.

Mr Russell will visit the island on Friday after attending a similar event with Kintyre dairy farmers and their families on Monday.

The two meetings are taking place in the shadow of a further reduction in the price per litre paid to the area’s dairy farmers by First Milk, taking effect from next month.

The company announced on Tuesday that under a new ‘A & B’ pricing structure, the A price would be set at 20.87ppl (pence per litre) for the manufacturing pool and 20.5ppl for the balancing pool, both effective from April 1.

The range for the B price is 16ppl to 18ppl.

Reflecting on the gathering of Kintyre farmers on Monday, Mr Russell said: “This was a well-attended and very focussed meeting, which discussed in detail the challenges facing the dairy industry in Kintyre.

“There was agreement that the absolute priority was to ensure that First Milk honoured their commitment to major investment in the creamery, which is being supported by grants from the Scottish Government.

“I agreed to meet the dairy farmers and their families again soon, when there will hopefully be more information from the company about a firm timescale of the upgrading of the creamery, which is vital for the future of the producers and the area.

“In the meantime, I will seek answers from the Scottish Government and the company to a range of questions about that investment, the costs incurred by the plant, and the prospects for better marketing, innovation and new products.

“The range of recommendations in the report of the recent Scottish Parliament inquiry into the Scottish milk supply chain was also discussed, as I am sure they will be when I meet the Bute dairy farmers on Friday. They will be particularly keen to press the Scottish Government to ensure a better deal on ferry costs for their milk when it leaves the island.

“I will continue to do everything I can to help this important agricultural sector in Argyll & Bute, which is being adversely affected by a difficult global market for milk but which is also suffering - as the Scottish Parliament Rural Affairs Committee report clearly shows - by poor decisions and management from First Milk.”