Dairy board chairman Michael Oakes shares his ambition for 2021

NFU Dairy Board Chairman Michael Oakes kneels in front of cows

There is no doubt that 2020 has delivered a turbulent year for the whole of society, and the dairy sector is no exception.

The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic were rapid and profound, but the sector found its feet again and we hope that by the time the next spring flush comes, the market has stabilised further. The uncertainty over the Brexit arrangements cannot be ignored in the short term either. At the time of writing, no one can be sure of exactly how things will pan out, so we have been making preparations for all eventualities.

Nonetheless, we must also look further into the future and outline what we feel the dairy sector needs to thrive and grow. The dairy market has been polarised for a while and many farmers have been receiving competitive prices for their milk, while others have been suffering badly. It is clear to see there are issues in the liquid milk market which need to be addressed, as this has been a major source of the inequality. We need to see more investment in innovation to move liquid milk away from being a commodity product. There have been some good steps recently to do this, but we are still a long way behind many of our competitors.

Next year may also present the next stages of the reform of dairy contracts. We have always fundamentally believed that good contracts are at the heart of a more progressive and collaborative sector and we are committed to working with the entire industry to make improvements and move things forward, following the opportunity to share our members views via the long-awaited dairy contracts consultation in 2020.

Finally, we know that there are a number of issues which need addressing on farm. For many of our members, the big concerns include uncertainty over investment or the impacts of increasing environmental regulation, as well as access to skilled labour. The day-to-day impacts will continue to be an area of focus for our work in 2021 to ensure our members are well-informed and operating in the best possible business environment.

Michael Oakes
Chair, dairy board

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