Dairy UK director-general Jim Begg has shrugged off suggestions he should resign over the plight of dairy farmers.
Former NFU vice president Gwyn Jones this week accused him of being responsible for a “culture of abuse” within the dairy industry. In an opinion piece for Farmers Weekly, Jones called for Begg to resign and said he had been a “major stumbling block” to change in the dairy industry.
“While Jim Begg remains at Dairy UK, the culture of abuse will remain,” he wrote. “Mr Begg presides over processors who are not competitive in manufacturing, do not export and have an ‘island mentality’ to their industry – an industry which has been and still is shrinking in production.”
But Begg was unfazed by Jones’s personal attack and hit back, dismissing the comments as an “occupational hazard” in his position. He said Jones had expressed similar views for a number of years.
Begg said Jones was “quite entitled to his opinion” but told critics “I won’t be following his advice” to resign.
He said the industry was “on the brink of an agreement” on the voluntary code of practice on dairy contracts, which would deliver “real benefits” for farmers and processors.
Alongside farming minister Jim Paice, Begg was the only industry figure named specifically in Jones’s piece. But Jones also criticised “farmer representatives”, who he said should all stand for re-election over their approach to the current dairy farming crisis.
“There are a few who have done great harm to the industry, and there are many who would struggle to take on the challenges ahead,” he said. “If we insist on an election for all positions this autumn, no-one can escape democracy. If this is not done, you will not see a better future.”
Jones’s opinion piece came as dairy farmers called on processors and retailers to take urgent action following two rounds of farmgate milk price cuts in recent weeks.
A new report published by Kite Consulting today suggested the price cuts, coupled with recent wet weather, meant the average producer was already £3,600 per month worse off in cash flow terms than in April. The discrepancy could soon rise to as much as £7,500 per month, it warned.