The current calendar year still shows every sign of finishing with Milk Group average auction prices for December running at 27.7ppl. But whether the quota year will finish on such a high note is not guaranteed. The present physical shortages of raw milk are made worse by the pre-Christmas buid-up as UK processors cease to be exporters of cream and start running cream filling lines. Dairy Crest and Express have promised an extra 2ppl until Christmas, but not beyond. Once demand falls back in the new year, spot prices can be expected to drop back too. In a bid to head off a possible relapse in milk prices, quota-holding dairy marketing business the Milk Group has devised a new take on the 80:20 rule for its farmers. To develop its fixed rate contracts, from April next year, it will offer suppliers the chance to trade 20% of their output on the currently lucrative spot market, keeping 80% in fixed price contracts. The contract price will be calculated from monthly average returns from auction, secondary and spot sales. This will give farmers a market-linked income at all times. It will make more raw milk available to the company's national milk auction, which, in co-operation with Scottish Milk, currently trades over three million litres of raw milk a month across the UK. "Our new contract will give dairy farmers the chance to tap into short-term, demand-related milk markets and to capitalise on current market values," said Milk Group chief executive Robert Audas. In the long term, producers need a more stable outlet for their milk, which Milk Group is also preparing to offer from next April in the form of a new level supply contract. This will pay a fixed payment, provided producers' output remains within a 12.5% band above or below the farmer's stated farm output profile. Any deviation beyond 12.5% will be penalised with a 2ppl fine on the surplus milk. Audas describes the new contracts as "a clear departure from existing payment schemes". It is the result of a comprehensive review of existing payment schemes. {{PROVISIONS }}