Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 10:20 UK

'Dairy summit' over milk concerns

Dairy farmers outside the Scottish Parliament
A summit will be held at Holyrood following the farmers' protest

A "dairy summit" will be held at Holyrood next month after a protest by Scottish farmers about the prices they are paid for milk.

The National Farmers Union in Scotland said the amount paid to producers had fallen by 20% since the start of 2009.

Producers, processors, dairy co-operatives and retail representatives will all be invited to the summit.

The discussions have been scheduled to take place at the Scottish Parliament on 27 May.

Roxburgh and Berwickshire Tory MSP John Lamont said many milk producers were receiving a price which barely covered their costs.

This has seen the Borders lose many of the dairy farms which existed only a few years ago
John Lamont MSP

"While dairy products have increased in price to consumers, dairy farmers have not benefited financially and, not unreasonably, feel aggrieved," he said.

"I am greatly concerned for the future viability of the dairy industry in Scotland, as smaller producers in particular are being squeezed out of production.

"This has seen the Borders lose many of the dairy farms which existed only a few years ago."

His concerns were echoed by South of Scotland Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume.

He said a UK supermarket ombudsman "must be serious and have teeth" but that the Scottish Government also needed to act.

"The industry expects action," he said.

"It looks like the long-awaited dairy farmers summit is set to be announced.

"But after the fiasco of the pig task force, this must restore rather than undermine confidence."

'Good news stories'

The Scottish Government has now confirmed that the dairy summit meeting will take place next month.

Environment minister Roseanna Cunningham said many producers faced uncertainty due to two "major concerns" - labelling and prices.

"We are pursuing labelling issues through the Food Standards Agency and actively engaging with supermarkets to find out more about their supply chains and the impact they have on prices," she said.

"There are good news stories to tell about relationships between suppliers and retailers.

"But we believe that a supermarket ombudsman would benefit both consumers and the dairy industry, and this is something we will continue to press for."

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