The factor of the Bute Estate, landlord to the island’s 13 under-pressure dairy farmers, has spoken of his frustration at the situation those farmers have been put in by First Milk.
Bob Baines contacted The Buteman after the farming co-operative, of which all Bute’s dairy farmers are members, announced it would be imposing a 1.2 pence per litre cut in the price it pays those farmers for their milk, with effect from June 1.
That new cut - six times that being imposed on the company’s members on the Scottish mainland, while First Milk members outside Scotland won’t have to cope with a price cut at all - has been blamed by the company on the cost of transporting milk from Bute to processing centres on the mainland.
Mr Baines said: “The implications of First Milk’s cost reduction programme increase the short term challenge for the island’s dairy sector and we are working closely with them to address the formidable issues arising.
“The frustration is that the unsustainable price being paid by First Milk threatens to put the island’s farmers out of dairying when they have a great product, sustainable businesses and the ability to deliver exactly what the consumer and government seems to want. We will spare no effort in raising awareness of the farmers’ situation and support them in their attempts to secure government assistance.
“The Bute dairy farmers together with the Estate believe there is real reason to be optimistic about the longer term opportunities for dairy. Being competitive on haulage costs is important to any business and moving milk is no different.
“This is a shared challenge for many UK producers and I understand there are producers in the Midlands and East Anglia who are also having to deal with price reductions linked to the cost of lifting their milk.
“Our farmers remain in dialogue with First Milk to find ways of ensuring their milk is collected as efficiently as possible and to ensure no one is carrying unnecessary costs.
“The Scottish Government seems to also believe there is a future for dairying in this part of Scotland - certainly the grass continues to grow, and the farmers’ recent decision to go Free Range fits well with the Government’s dairy strategy and its desire to ensure sustainability through both added value and additional processing.”