MP Sir Jim Paice - who also chairs First Milk- delivers bad news to dairy farmers whose payments will be delayed

Sir Jim Paice speaking in Parliament

Sir Jim Paice speaking in Parliament - Credit: Archant

MP Sir Jim Paice brought further bad news to dairy farmers this week as he announced that their pay would be delayed by two weeks.

The SE Cambs MP – and also £125,000 a year chairman of First Milk- told more than 1,000 farmers they will have to wait to receive their cheques, with all future payments also delayed by a fortnight as a result.

Sir Jim, a former Minister for Agriculture, became chairman of First Milk – a farmer-owned co-operative that supplies milk and other dairy products to supermarkets-in August 2013.

He said: “While our lenders have been supportive as we’ve dealt with this volatility, with the added uncertainty of the imminent EU quota removal, the board has taken the decision to re-build the fundamentals of the business ahead of the spring flush.

“The board has therefore decided that the milk payment planned for January 12 will now be deferred until January 26, with all future payments also being deferred by 2 weeks.”

The National Farmers Union said this week that the number of British dairy farms has fallen by 50 per cent in the past 12 years, mainly because of falling prices and rising costs. Farmers are now getting around 20p a litre for their milk, the lowest it’s been since 2007.

NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison compared being a dairy farmer to being a boxer “on the ropes and taking body blow after body blow.”

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Sir Jim said: “We understand that the milk payment deferral will cause concern for members as direct debits and payments will have been lined up against milk cheques. “On that basis, we are working with all major banks at national, regional and local levels to explain the rationale around this decision. That way, bank managers should be well equipped for any conversations they have with First Milk members.

“The board are acutely aware of the difficulties this current extreme volatility is causing First Milk members and the UK dairy industry.

“We don’t know how long this current market downturn will last, and we are aware that hundreds of UK dairy farmers are unlikely to find a home for their milk this spring.”