My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I wish to update the House on recent developments related to dairy farmers of Britain.
I informed the House in my Written Statement of 9 June (col. 31WS) that on 3 June PricewaterhouseCoopers had been appointed as receivers and managers of Dairy Farmers of Britain Limited (DFoB). In the debate on food, farming and the environment on 18 June (col. 480), I reported that new buyers had been found for 96 per cent of the milk, leaving fewer than 200 of the 1,800 farmers affected yet to find an alternative milk buyer. A further 47 farmers secured new buyers before the end of last week.
Throughout this time Defra officials and the regional development agencies have worked closely with the receiver, the DFoB members’ council and with many other parties, whether those affected or those offering support. All parties have worked to find new buyers for all the remaining farmers as quickly as possible.
On 26 June the receiver and Milk Link announced that all 143 farmers who were on short-term rolling contracts with the receiver at that time were being offered a contract with Milk Link. This would be for a three-month rolling contract paying a standard litre price of 18.45 pence per litre. Some farmers started to sign up to these contracts over the weekend.
I welcome this initiative by Milk Link which, by making use of economies of scale and Milk Link’s existing infrastructure, has enabled them to offer these farmers significantly more than the 10p/l being offered by the receiver, although whether that price is commercially viable for individual farmers is a matter for them to determine. Defra will continue to work with other parties to ensure affected farmers know how to access advice, including advice funded by the rural development agencies through the Rural Development Programme England (RDPE) where appropriate.
I would like again to pay tribute to the hard work of the many individuals and organisations who have contributed to ensuring that no milk has been thrown away since the collapse of DFoB and that all farmer members of DFoB have now been offered a contract with a new milk buyer.
I will update the House as necessary.