Dairy industry withering on the vine, says Lord Morris
Former Secretary of State for Wales Lord Morris of Aberavon has expressed serious concerns for the survival of the UK dairy industry.
Opening the Farmers' Union of Wales's iconic new pavilion at the Royal Welsh Showground, the union's first deputy general secretary and legal adviser, said the dairy industry is "withering on the vine" because it is operating on an unfair playing field.
"There is something completely wrong when a pint of milk is about 50p and a pint of water 83p!" he said.
"The major supermarkets hold the industry in their grip but some firms have been less fair than others - to their discredit.
"Do they really want, in their own interests, the dairy industry to die?
"When I was a young man working for farmers there were 6,000 registered milk producers in Carmarthenshire alone.
"I doubt whether there are 3,000 in the whole of Wales now.
"The Westminster minister of agriculture is trying to agree a voluntary code of practice with the dairy and retail industries and to work with them to ensure stability in the market.
"In a deregulatory age this is the only offer on the table and I wish the minister well - time is not on his side for it to succeed.
"The whole supply chain needs repair, perhaps more robustly."
Lord Morris welcomed eminent agriculturalist Lord Plumb's recent support in the House of Lords of a Groceries Code Adjudicator (Ombudsman) to ensure fairness in the market place.
"The only argument was what powers he should have.
"It reminds me of the time when there was a process of arbitration involving the Milk Marketing Board, the industry and the retailers. It is a welcome step forward."
Dealing with another topical issue, Lord Morris said the dairy herd must be kept in good health and he welcomed "positive steps" being taken at last in England to deal with badger culling.
"The former Welsh agriculture minister Elin Jones is to be commended for her brave and pioneering fight (to introduce a badger cull in Wales). It was the process that let her down.
"I hope Wales will watch closely at what is happening in England.
"A reduction in tuberculosis would bring a welcome relief to both the industry and the taxpayer."
FUW president Emyr Jones said it was an easy decision for the union's presidential team to choose Lord Morris to open the pavilion.
"In his recently-published autobiography he reminds us of the difficult times the union faced in its formative years.
"In chapter three he recalls the time when he came home for Christmas in 1955 and 'all hell had broken loose in the farming community in Carmarthen and Ceredigion'.
"A small minority of farmers had broken away from the NFU and formed the FUW.
"People said at the time that this union would not last more than three months but this building is proof that we are here to stay.
"It is very important for everybody connected to the industry to work together to make sure that we have a strong and prosperous farming industry in Wales.
"Please don't play politics with the future of the industry in Wales."
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