Farm­ers hit with ‘ham­mer blow’ by dairy gi­ant Muller

Fears over fu­ture of milk in­dus­try as plug pulled on sup­ply con­tracts

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - FRONT PAGE - BY GEMMA MACKEN­ZIE FARM­ING EDI­TOR

MORE than a dozen Aberdeen­shire dairy farm­ers have been dealt a “ham­mer blow” af­ter the main milk buyer in the re­gion can­celled their con­tracts.

Muller de­liv­ered ter­mi­na­tion no­tices to 14 of its 26 north-east sup­pli­ers fol­low­ing a re­view of its Scot­tish dairy op­er­a­tions.

It blamed an “un­prece­dented 25% surge” in Scot­tish farm milk pro­duc­tion for the de­ci­sion and said it was be­ing forced to trans­port 180 mil­lion litres of ex­cess milk to Eng­land for pro­cess­ing ev­ery year.

Rob Hutchi­son, Muller milk sup­ply direc­tor, said: “We fully ap­pre­ci­ate that these mea­sures will be ex­tremely un­wel­come and desta­bil­is­ing for our farmer sup­pli­ers, par­tic­u­larly in the north-east of Scot­land, but the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is un­vi­able and we must act.”

Farm lead­ers and politi­cians crit­i­cised the move and said it could be “cat­a­strophic”.

How­ever, Roy Mitchell, who milks 350 cows at Drim­mies Farm, near In­verurie, re­mained hope­ful about his fu­ture last night, and said: “There are other milk buy­ers in Scot­land. I’m quite con­fi­dent.”

Shadow ru­ral econ­omy sec­re­tary Peter Chap­man called on the govern­ment to in­ter­vene, while the NFU Scot­land pres­i­dent An­drew Mc­Cor­nick, right, said the de­ci­sion un­der­mined the liveli­hoods of farm­ers.

The chief of Scot­land’s farm­ing union has accused Muller of un­der­min­ing the liveli­hoods of Scot­tish dairy farm­ers.

NFU Scot­land pres­i­dent An­drew Mc­Cor­nick said the dairy com­pany’s de­ci­sion to end con­tracts with 14 Aberdeen­shire farm­ers was “dev­as­tat­ing news”.

“The liveli­hoods and vi­a­bil­ity of Scot­tish dairy farm­ers sup­ply­ing Muller have been un­der­mined by the out­comes of this re­view,” he said.

Mr Mc­Cor­nick was also crit­i­cal of Muller’s plans to in­tro­duce a tiered trans­port charge for all Scot­tish sup­pli­ers from Fe­bru­ary 2020. This will be cal­cu­lated based on how much a farmer has ex­panded their milk pro­duc­tion be­tween 2017 and 2019, and will range from 0.25p to 0.85p for ev­ery litre pro­duced.

He said: “Given the con­sid­er­able com­mit­ment and in­vest­ment made by dairy farm­ers, we now have pro­duc­ers look­ing to find a new buyer in the next year if they wish to con­tinue milk­ing cows while oth­ers, through haulage charges, face a sig­nif­i­cant cut in in­come at a time when milk prices are strug­gling to cover the cost of pro­duc­tion.”

He said the union hoped to at­tend a Muller meet­ing with farm­ers next week.

NFU Scot­land pres­i­dent An­drew Mc­Cor­nick

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