Dairy Industry Review – 1

I was a member of the Dairy Industry Review Board that presented a report to the States in September 2014 setting out the future strategic direction of the industry. The history of reports in this area has been fraught and I was therefore delighted that we managed, for the first time in 15 years, to have a report passed by the States. The report was amended by Deputy Fallaize, which instructed C&E to come back to the States by July 2015 in relation to a distribution system that it thought worked best for the industry. The majority of the Board of C&E, including me, supported this amendment. My speech on the amendment is given below. See my later post on the speech I made in main debate.

Sir, I would like to advise that, as a member of the Dairy Industry Review Group and C&E Board, that I believe that the re-presentation of propositions that this amendment provides represents a positive way forward for the States to consider the Dairy Industry Review.

Proposition 1 sets out our 10 point plan for the future, as described in detail in the DIRG report. There is merit in having what we consider to be a vital, practical and integrated plan set out in this way.  We are happy for it to be explicitly stated in the recommendations to give complete clarity, which is an important theme in this Review.

Of all the aspects of the review it is, and not for the first time, the matter of distribution and retailing that is where contention lies.  Proposition 2, by seeking to direct the Department to take a second and longer look at that topic away from the general review should ensure that the most important and urgent elements of the report, such as the modernisation of the Milk Ordinance, the partnership between the farmers and the Dairy and the freeing up of the retail price of milk, can be delivered without delay.  And we can at last begin on our journey towards the modernisation of the dairy Industry.

Here I’d just like to respond to a question asked by Deputy Laurie Queripel regarding extending the fixed retail price. I can advise that the Board can see no merit or reason for doing so as the milk distributors have exclusivity of licences and zones until the end of 2015, so they will have the same protection as now.

I have found undertaking the review of the Dairy Industry fascinating on a number of levels;

Firstly, in learning about the history of the Guernsey breed,

Secondly, in finding how milk gets from the cow to the carton,

And thirdly, realising the importance of Dairy farming in preserving Guernsey’s natural environment and its biodiversity.

I will speak on these during main debate, as it is these areas that are crucial in understanding the future of the Guernsey Dairy Industry.

And I’d just like members to note the word I used there –  Future. This review is entitled ‘Dairy Farming in Guernsey and the Future’.

I want to emphasise that point as the other aspect of this review that I have found fascinating and which I will speak on now, is how it has become abundantly clear to me that this industry has been so suffocated by its past.

And nowhere more so than in the Distribution system. The means of getting milk from the Dairy to the shop or doorstep. It should be so straightforward but it has had a difficult history to say the least.

I have spent countless  hours researching how we have ended up with the current system of distribution. I’ve read countless reports and articles, spoken to many people and interrogated the Director of Client Services over many hours to get a picture of how we got here and what “here” actually is. I would actually like to thank the Director for the time he has afforded me over this.

It was evident, from all the research I did and from the meetings with the GMRA, that because of this history going back decades, it might not be possible to resolve matters in just a few months . As someone who likes to come up with solutions that all parties can accept, and who came into the review with a genuinely open mind, I found this aspect very disappointing.

The Board came up with a compromise way forward for the distribution system, which we make clear in paragraphs 271 and 272 of the report,  isn’t the optimum system for the industry as a whole.

Personally, I do not think that it makes any sense to prevent the shops from picking up their own milk and dealing direct with the Dairy. I have calculated that it costs one of the major supermarkets over £75,000 a year to have milk delivered to its stores. That makes no sense at all.


We’ve also got the situation where we have one distributor that delivers to one entrance of the PEH and another that delivers to the other entrance. Again it makes no sense at all to me and suggests that there are costs in this system that need not be there.

BUT a compromise was made.

I will not go through what I think the optimum system of distribution is now, or how we get to it, that is for another day if, and I hope when, this amendment is passed, but we do not have it now.

I thank Deputy Fallaize for this amendment which gives us a way to maintain much needed momentum in bringing about change where full agreement exists while having a little longer to work with stakeholders in the one area where there is disagreement.

The last thing we can afford to end up with is another missed opportunity to make positive changes and have a report that gathers dust amongst the many others over the last 10 years, at Raymond Falla House.

Finally, I reiterate what I said before, in my view, this is an industry which in some aspects is suffocated by its past but in others is ready for new challenges and developments.  As a States we really have a duty in 2014, for the good of all those involved, to help it to move on and enable the Dairy Industry to look to the future and a positive one at that.

If we don’t make a decision today to support all the propositions laid out in this amendment  and put it off yet again, just letting history repeat itself, we are seriously in danger of losing what we are trying to protect.

I therefore support this helpful amendment and urge all members to do likewise.

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