The union said it recognizes recovery from the crisis will provide opportunities for Scottish farmers. All NFU Scotland’s commodity committees and working groups have identified key steps and actions needed.
For those producing milk, the priorities have been identified and include engaging on all discussions relevant to government support options for dairy farmers, as well as working with processors to ensure any adverse impacts on producers are minimized and returns to farm businesses are maximized.
Also noted as the need to engage with processors to assess if their business requirements have changed during the recovery stage to ensure producers can adapt.
Delivering the forthcoming milk contract consultation and engaging with the membership has also been marked as a priority, as has delivering the Scottish Dairy Growth Board Dairy Future Report, which includes increasing export markets for Scottish dairy produce and inward investment for increased dairy processing capacity.
Milk committee chairman, Gary Mitchell, who milks cows near Stranraer, said, “What an extraordinary spring. When the milk committee met in March, we were joined by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing and had a very useful discussion on milk contracts, future investment in dairy processing in Scotland and all the environmental challenges ahead for dairy farmers.
“A few days later, there was a dramatic change, we hit lockdown and a real challenge came to the sector. We immediately took lots of calls from farmers and processors regarding the shutdown of restaurants, hotels and cafes. So many changes happened so quickly and that had a real effect on the supply chain. Overnight, everyone was going to a shop or a retailer to access milk and dairy.”
Mitchell said that meant farmers were worried about getting their milk picked up, and consumers were asking why they couldn’t get milk on the shelves. He said it took a few weeks to get a grip on the dairy market situation during the initial response phase.
“Now, we are in reset and restart and heading for recovery, and we need to focus on how we can improve our supply chain. A lot of work by NFU Scotland in recent years has also been spent on milk contracts. I am pleased to say that the UK Government and devolved nations will be launching a consultation on contracts in next few weeks,” Mitchell said.
“I would encourage all farmers to take part it. It is all about the future. It is not just about a farmer’s milk contract, but about the whole chain from farmer to processor to retailer and other outlets and making that chain better.”
NFU Scotland said as the country enters the recovery phase, Scottish agriculture should embrace change and seek new market opportunities, and lead in the delivery of climate ambitions and a flourishing environment.
It added the sector should also drive sustainable rural development, helping rural communities thrive and prosper.