No sign of price cut U-turn for Bute dairy farmers

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell.
Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell.

The chief executive of First Milk has brushed aside a call for Bute dairy farmers’ latest price cut to be reversed.

Mike Gallacher was pressed by the island’s MSP, Michael Russell, on Thursday over the inequitable treatment of the island’s 13 dairy farmers - who will be hit by a cut of 1.2 pence for every litre of milk they produce from this Monday, June 1, because of the higher cost of transporting milk to the mainland.

Mr Gallacher was speaking at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s rural affairs, climate change and environment committee the day after the Scottish Government announced financial support of £65,000 to offset those transport costs.

He said First Milk - a co-operative owned by its farmer members - had paid different prices to different groups of farmers for some years, and said that paying the same price was not the same thing as “consistency of treatment”.

“We’re accountable to our farmers,” Mr Gallacher said. “That’s why it’s important the 13 farmers on Bute are treated consistently with the 337 farmers in the Midlands.”

That cut little ice with Mr Russell, who said the Scottish Government’s support, which will last for the next six months, would almost completely bridge the cost gap which has led to First Milk’s price cut decision.

“You’re asking them to pay the same,” Mr Russell said, referring to Bute’s dairy farmers and the ‘retention’ fees they are contractually obliged to pay to First Milk, “but what they get out of that is the lowest of anybody in the co-op.

“That is basically unfair and inequitable.”