Orkney Dairy Farmers Meet Cabinet Secretary on Future for Milk Production

Orkney dairy farmers met with Scottish Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead yesterday (Tuesday, 2 December) to discuss the future of the sector on the islands.

A combination of falling milk prices, severe volatility in the cheese market and future changes to CAP support are leading some producers to question their future in milk production.  Any further decline in milk supplies would put further pressure on the island’s creamery, where intake has fallen from 16 million litres four years ago to around 13 million litres now.

The meeting, set up by local NFUS secretary Kenny Slater, took place in The Ayre Hotel, Kirkwall. Mr Lochhead went on to address NFU Scotland’s CAP roadshow, taking place in the same venue that afternoon.

Orkney milk producer Richard Herdman, a member of NFU Scotland’s milk committee said:

“Orkney has a long history of quality cheese production but producers are under pressure and any further reduction in production has ramifications for the viability of our creamery.

“We are a farmers’ co-operative selling a premium branded PGI-protected product so should be isolated to some degree from the freefall in dairy commodity prices.  However, there is no doubt that there is downward pressure being felt in the cheese market.  That is disappointing as farmers failed to benefit fully when prices were at a high last year.

“With our high-cost base, producers are always vulnerable and production on the island has slipped significantly in recent years.  It may take a positive signal from politicians on dairying to ensure the 18 producers on the island continue to see a future in milking cows.

“We urged the Cabinet Secretary to give consideration to measures that would help island milk producers.  Under new CAP arrangements, an enhanced payment will be made to support beef calves produced on Orkney.  However, beef calves from the dairy herd don’t qualify and that may make beef production an attractive option for existing dairy farmers.

“The new rural development arrangements for Scotland have yet to be announced but it would be appreciated if measures could be built into that to assist dairy farmers on Orkney with capital grants.

“We also would value more support for transport, promotion and marketing.  With all our cheese being packaged at Stranraer – the other end of the country - transport is a big part of our costs.  At the same time, with a quality product like Orkney cheese, assistance on promotion, particularly to export markets would be of value.  Such an approach would fit in well with Scottish Government’s ambitions for the food and drink sector in Scotland.”

NFU Scotland Milk Policy Manager George Jamieson said:

“We have been working with Orkney dairy farmers and the co-op alongside HIE, Scotland Food & Drink and SAOS looking at what can be done to support milk production. HIE has commissioned a study, looking at all island and peripheral milk fields.

“NFU Scotland believes that the Scottish government and local politicians must recognise the huge contribution that local dairy farmers and processing deliver to the local economy and we are very keen to continue to work with industry and government to ensure these valuable assets not only survive, but thrive. Time is of the essence and we need collaborative action.

“The new CAP arrangements, either through direct support (Pillar 1) or rural development (Pillar 2) look to offer little by way of support for dairy.  With the Island beef calf scheme and the substantial pot of funding for beef in Pillar 2, the worry for the future of milk production and the creamery on Orkney is that there is a shift away from dairying and into beef.”  

Notes to Editors

  • A picture of Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead meeting with dairy farmers on Orkney yesterday is available on request from


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 185/14

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