Having considered this feedback, and after speaking to a number of dairy farming members on this subject, NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond said: “There’s no doubt among dairy farmers that Arla Foods UK is a strong, progressive and successful dairy company, with an ambitious and exciting growth strategy. However, dairy farmers have got mixed feelings about the investment proposals and have clearly got concerns about their representation through the AFMP.
“The feedback I have received at this stage in the consultation process raises several important issues for Arla and the AFMP to consider. Dairy farmers that have attended the regional member meetings tell me they feel uncomfortable about expressing their views in this type of forum.
“There are dairy farmers who are broadly supportive of the proposals, but because of the individual circumstances of their own businesses, don’t wish to invest at this point in time. There are also some ex-Dairy Farmers of Britain suppliers who don’t feel confident about a further corporate investment so soon after the collapse of DFB.
“Dairy farmers also appear unclear on the precise process and timescale that the AFMP has in place for making a final decision. Many farmers have simply been told to talk to their regional representative to express their support or otherwise for the proposals. This isn’t a sufficiently detailed or rigorous process for an investment proposal of this size.
“I believe that this process lacks transparency, lacks certainty and lacks a detailed prospectus that identifies the risks and opportunities of this investment, which is, after all, an investment in shares in the long run.
“It’s my view that the AFMP should hold a secret ballot on the proposals, with a clear prospectus so that every dairy farmer is able to have their say. The ballot should be facilitated by an independent third party so as to ensure anonymity and integrity.
“If the majority of AFMP members vote in favour of the investment then the NFU will happily support the view of that majority. Either way, it’s important for Arla UK and for Danish and Swedish farmers to know that British dairy farmers fully support the proposals and are investing with confidence.
“I also believe that if dairy farmers were able to make investment decisions on an individual basis that better suited the needs of their own business, both Arla and farmers would get a better outcome from this process.
“There are still 14 district meetings to be held over the next few weeks, and it’s vitally important that dairy farmers attend these meetings to express their views and understand the proposals being made.”
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019