Livestock 2012 was officially opened by farm minister Jim Paice in what in what turned out to be his final day in the job.
During the event press conference at the NEC he had joked when a phone rang in the room, ‘if its number 10, tell them I’m busy.’ Not quite so funny after all, it seems.
In his opening remarks to farmers gathered at event sponsor Barclays’ stand for the opening, the minister welcomed the agreement on the voluntary code of best practice on dairy contracts.
“It doesn’t immediately put money in producers’ pockets but is an important step forward for the whole of the industry,” he said.
The code, announced the day before the event, aims to give security in business relationships whilst adding safeguards that will assure farmers that contracts don’t put them at a disadvantage in the market place.
The minister was keen to point out that this is a voluntary code agreed by the industry, not statutory, but he will keep an eye on its and it was important to recognise that legislation does lie there.
Next on the table will be the consultation on the EU Dairy Package, which will be put out by the government in the next few weeks.
“Now we have got the code of practice I will be making it clear that our preferred option is that we wait and see if the code works,” he said.
“The code incorporates its own review provision and it encourages more flexible and innovative solutions than the Dairy package could on its own.
“I know already many processors are exploring a range of possible pricing solutions looking at the concept of formula based pricing so I believe the code is the best way forward so will be our preference in the consultation.
The other important part of the Dairy Package covers producer organisations, he said. But the EU package is light on information except to say that a PO mustn’t be bigger than 33 per cent of the UK market – a massive chunk. The package allows the POs to take on a sharing knowledge and skills role and collaboration on marketing.
The minister said it has been a remarkable year. He was surprised when the dairy companies one after another set to reduce milk price in August and he understood why farmers took action in the way they did, although he could obviously not condone it.
“What we have been through could be a watershed in the development of our dairy industry,” he said.
On TB he said the pilot cull is on course to proceed in the autumn following the imminent court case.