Joan McAlpine MSP has welcomed the outcome of a summit called to explore ways in which the Scottish Government can help dairy farmers address immediate challenges facing the sector.
The South of Scotland SNP MSP praised yesterday’s meeting, called by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead, for identifying concrete ways that the government can help the sector. The meeting, attended by representatives from the Scottish Government, NFU Scotland, processing, and retail sectors, also discussed how to build on the progress made under the Scottish Government’s Dairy Action Plan.
Ms McAlpine said:
“I am very aware of the current challenges facing dairy farmers in our area and strongly welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to identifying practical measures that can be taken to support our farmers.
“I have been a consistent champion of the sector and recognise the role of farmers as fundamental to our region’s successes in the food and drink industry.
“There is a long-established tradition of dairy farming in Dumfriesshire based on the highest standards of farming practice. This summit therefore marks a positive development for our region – and shows that the SNP government is serious about working in partnership with the affected industries to identify how best to build on the existing support for a vital sector in difficult times.”
Mr Lochhead said he would take stock of the issues raised in the meeting – including a request by the NFU Scotland to support the urgent establishment of an industry-led dairy task force involving the banking sector, and to support calls for a UK-wide review of the sector’s voluntary code of practice to encourage greater uptake.
Mr Lochhead said:
“I will absolutely take on board the issues raised during today’s meeting and will discuss these in further detail with my officials. It is clear we must work together to come up with a short-term plan. We are doing what we can to develop Scottish solutions, but it is clear that action is also needed at UK level.
“In the long-term, following today’s publication of Scotland Food & Drink’s study into the origin of cheddar cheese and butter in Scottish supermarkets, I would like to see the sales of Scottish cheddar cheese double across the UK over the next five years – if the industry and retailers work together we can make this a reality.
“Currently Scottish cheddar cheese is worth 5.6 per cent of the UK market – which is around £82 million – by upping sales to 11 per cent we will plough an extra £82 million each year into the sector. I believe that if consumers are aware a product is Scottish, they will be more likely to support their local producers and buy it – so I see a great opportunity here for dairy processors to look at the ways they market their products and encourage further sales of home-grown produce.”
Communities Minister Paul Wheelhouse, who chaired the event, said:
“It was clear from today’s meeting that there are acute challenges facing the sector right now, and there is a short-term issue that needs to be addressed immediately. I will take forward the NFU Scotland’s request for Scottish Government support of an industry-led task force to the Cabinet Secretary and explore it further with officials.”
Joan McAlpine has been a vocal supporter of the local dairy sector. The MSP has previously praised the staff and facilities at the Arla Foods dairy in Lockerbie and has used parliamentary motions to highlight local added-value businesses such as Cream o’ Galloway , Drummuir farm ice cream parlour and the award-wining Criffel cheese from Loch Arthur Camphill community.
Notes to Editors
The Scottish dairy sourcing report, carried out by Scotland Food & Drink, and commissioned by the Scottish Government, can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/03/5209
Due to personal circumstances, Mr Lochhead was unable to attend yesterday’s meeting.