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Why can't UK return a sustainable cost covering milk prices to dairy farms?

The UK dairy industry will continue to flounder unless a radical shake-up of the current imbalance of power is brought into force as a matter of urgency ("Farmers should unite to milk the benefits of co-ops", The Herald, January 21).

For grassroots dairy farmers to become profitable, a firm foothold must be made before 2015.

We have no viable plans for the future and have left our fate in the hands of the Government and others for far too long. Farming organisations have shown an unequivocal failure in the use of lobbying to attain a fairer price. No master plan to succeed has been put in place, far less discussed.

Why is the UK unable to return a sustainable cost covering milk price to dairy farms when markets have been so strong for so long? We all know who is to blame. It's not about naming and shaming, it's about getting up and making the changes for ourselves. Only dairy farmers can make these decisions and return the UK to its rightful position as the best dairy nation in the world.

Our neighbours on the continent cannot produce milk more efficiently than we can (nor would they). Irish milk producers would have us believe they can double production and are making massive investments from a cost base of 24 eurocents per litre. "It's OK," they say, "it's not for the UK market. That really would be a last resort." The big four retailers use this alleged low cost base as a weapon in negotiation.

The reality is Irish costs on a comparison to UK formats would be more akin to 35 cents per litre. They have a peak to trough production ratio of 7:1, which hardly smacks of efficiency. The threat of doubling production relies heavily on investment most could ill afford in a country with its debt problems.

At the Semex dairy conference NFU president Peter Kendall trumpeted the voluntary code which does not, nor ever will have 100% sign-up from processors. How could a voluntary code ever work in this dog-eat-dog world? It is not mandatory and as worthless as the paper it is written on.

Mr Kendall also criticised dairy farming leaders. He said we must demand effective leadership. No-one thought to ask where these leaders could take us. Where do we really want to be on April 1, 2015?

I am reminded of Benjamin Disraeli's words: "I must follow them, for I am their leader."

Iain Smith,

Dairy Farmer,

Greentowers Farm, Lanark.

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