Dairy farmers on Bute have “a real opportunity” to work with each other and their landlord to make the island stand out on the agricultural map.
So says the chairman of NFU Scotland’s milk board after holding talks with representatives from the island’s farming sector during a tour of rural Scotland.
Gary Mitchell was joined by George Jamieson, the union’s policy director for dairy, at the meeting, where farmers were encouraged to look at working together to increase production through greater efficiency in the supply chain.
Mr Mitchell, who also visited dairy farmers in Kintyre, acknowledged that the major issue on Bute centred around the relationship between the island’s tenant farmers and their landlord, the Bute Estate.
“We have been very pleased with the turnout at our meetings in both Kintyre and Bute,” Mr Mitchell said.
“We wanted to visit these areas as we have concerns about the critical mass. In particular with Bute there are tenancy issues as well as issues surrounding investment and the confidence going forward as a sector as a whole.
“This visit has changed my whole perception of this market. Although the farmers feel like they are at a disadvantage at the moment, with restricted links to the mainland, they can just as much get things to go in their favour.
“The farmers are keen to develop their unique products, like Mull of Kintyre cheese. Bute’s farmers have ambitions to make something of their products - they have got a real opportunity. Bute Estates can work with the farmers to make Bute stand out on the map.”
According to a news release from NFU Scotland, the union is “keen to help develop initiatives such as whole farm reviews and develop technical and business advisory services to create future strategies to direct the way forward for the agriculture industry on the island”, while the union’s branch secretary, Ewan Warnock, has facilitated meetings between the Bute Estate and the farmers.
“The dairy, beef and sheep sectors are now looking to join together and form a group and look at how to improve the efficiency for farms on the island, for example initiating a whole farm review to take this industry forward,” Mr Mitchell added.
“You can look at these places as being at a disadvantage from the rest of the market, however the people we met on Thursday do not want to stay at that disadvantage.
“They have got the water, the grass and they have got a good proportion of young people that want to stay and develop the local industry. On the likes of the mainland they are facing the problem that they can’t keep their youngsters involved in the farm and they want to go and do other careers.
“The attendance at the meetings proves the commitment these farmers have to the agriculture industry. It’s rare to get so many people turning out at these sorts of meetings in the less remote areas.”