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Guernsey dairy dilemma: farmers push for sustainable future amidst financial strain

Source: The DairyNews
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President of the States Trading Supervisory Board, Peter Roffey, disclosed that officials are collaborating closely with farmers on plans of strategic importance.
Guernsey dairy dilemma: farmers push for sustainable future amidst financial strain

"The keys are poised behind the door, and if a logical, sustainable, and feasible proposal is presented, the STSB will be fully supportive," Deputy Roffey affirmed.

Michael Bray, President of the Guernsey Farmers' Association, characterized the ongoing discussions as tentative. "We've posed the question about whether farmers should manage the dairy," Mr. Bray stated.

"In Jersey and the Isle of Man, there are existing models we're considering. We've examined the structural aspects required for this cooperative venture between farms and the dairy," he added.

Mr. Bray acknowledged the financial constraints farmers would face if assuming control of the dairy necessitates substantial capital investment.

"However, if the dairy demands significant investment, its current book value is essentially negligible," Mr. Bray pointed out. "These are the discussions we must have with the States."

"We're uncertain about our current standing. The latest update indicated that the industry is in a state of managed decline. If that's accurate, then farmers should be entrusted with managing the dairy," he emphasized.

Responsibility for the dairy was transferred to the STSB in 2016, but Mr. Bray expressed dissatisfaction with its commercial progress since then. This year, it is projected to incur a loss of £200,000.

Mr. Bray asserted that urgent changes were imperative. "The morale among farmers and dairy staff is low," he remarked.

"We've been advocating for attention to this issue, and for over a year, we've awaited the Environment & Infrastructure's review of the dairy industry," he continued.

E&I has indicated that it is formulating a plan to ensure the long-term viability of the dairy industry. Originally scheduled for February, proposals are now anticipated by year's end.

"We seek a clear direction and a robust plan for the future," Mr. Bray stated. "Currently, we lack cohesive alignment to achieve effectiveness. There is significant frustration due to uncertainty about our trajectory."

Over the past decade, the number of farmers on the island has dwindled from 18 to 11 since the last industry review.

"During that review, environmental payments to farmers were slashed by the States," Mr. Bray recalled. "However, assurances were made regarding a new dairy, with projected annual cost savings of £1 million."

"Yet, progress on the new facility has stalled, despite the urgent need for substantial investment," he lamented. "This has strained the industry to its limits."

"Farmers have diligently complied with every requirement," Mr. Bray affirmed.

Deputy Roffey characterized the dairy as more than just a business, emphasizing its crucial role in preserving Guernsey's countryside.

"It's a vital enabler that cannot be expected to generate substantial profits under its current business model," he argued.

He criticized the Financial Transformation Programme, which, he claimed, reduced support to farmers by 75% over the past few decades. This, he argued, has driven up raw milk prices paid by the dairy and, consequently, increased retail prices for consumers.

Picture by Peter Frankland, 33357903
July 2024
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