Maple Field Milk – Is there a Market at all?

May 23 2015

Those who love the ‘market’ love size and complexity.  They look for tasty profit skimmed off vast wholesale trades flashing on and off screens. They love large crates of things forklifted on and off large lorries and ocean bound container ships. There was a big fuss recently over . . . “the biggest shipment ever of English grain from an east coast port”. The grinning merchant waved the ship off from the deserted quay while the farmers said good bye to the slightest chance of profit. This must be the World Market at work. Well good.  And by the way we hear government ministers and NFU dairy people and DairyCo (government quango) chasing the world market for milk. The same “world market”. They encourage the penniless herdsman by promising great waves of milk business from China and India. They overlook the fact that both countries are quick learners. Both countries are extremely able. They will learn to milk cows faster than you say Shanghi.  What nonsense. I know…let’s send heavy expensive dried milk powder all the way to China – yes –by sea. And let’s try and make a profit for the herdsman on the Welsh borders. What complete and utter nonsense.

What might be better is to look at this market and what it means …..really. It means I have milk and someone wants it. It is a raw material dragged from the earth. It has a value. That value is most important and absolutely must be paid for. If it is not paid for at the proper price of extraction then many other prices suffer and erode many other parts of the grand economy. So I produce milk every day and I must find willing people to use it immediately. I really engage in a terrific and terrifying market.  I must not let that milk out of my sight.  That marvellous super-enriched raw product must have all the value rung out of it.  Not flicked across some electronic screen in a split second; not traded down for the loss leader supermarket’s shabby competition.  Not stored in a super-cooled silo for 16 days but used immediately as the delicious foodstuff it most certainly is.

So I as the dairy farmer big or small have a direct duty to bypass the blockade of light fingered traders and buyers and world market economists standing at the farm gate and find those eager people who want my milk. That’s it. Find the people; do an exchange on their doorstep or somewhere convenient to them; collect the money and repeat this for ever.  Instead of Farmers For Action we must encourage Customers For Action.  It’s no earthly good blockading processors on the M5 and Supermarket car parks. The super-smooth buyers simply pick up the phone to Poland, Ireland or Denmark.

This is not original and I have said it before. It is not even my own quotation. But here it comes again. At the moment millions of customers are supplied with fresh milk by a handful of massive supermarkets. This milk is processed by a tiny number of  massive processing companies. We need  the reverse of that.  We need millions of dairy farmers/processors supplying a handful of customers. What do you think?

Nick Snelgar

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