EXPANDING markets mean Dorset produce is being sold as far away as China and Nigeria, says a West Dorset dairy farmer.
Simon Banfield, who farms 160 hectares and 160 cows at Admiston Farm near Dorchester, believes selling surplus milk abroad is the best way to combat ‘volatile’ prices in the UK.
He said: “Farmers tend to expand in the good times, and there’s a move to produce more milk, partly as a result of high prices.
“But this is now the last year of milk quotas, so there will be no limits to production.”
Mr Banfield is a member of farming co-operative scheme Arla and a member of the representatives’ board.
He said: “One of the biggest issues facing farmers is the volatility of the market, but just because the price of products such as cheese or powder is falling, doesn’t mean they are sold cheaper. It does not make us immune to the volatility but it should be smoother.
“Being in a co-operative, there is safety in numbers. You can’t let the retailers command what milk is worth.”
He added: “Places like China, where the population is becoming more middle class, are starting to look to Europe to buy their food, which they know is of good quality.
“Affluent people in developing countries are prepared to pay a top price.
“I don’t think that, 10 years ago, selling produce so far away is something we would have thought about in Dorset. If the market is depressed, we can divert milk wherever it produces the highest return.”
Consumers wanting to know more about where their food comes from, carbon emissions and wildlife concerns are placing growing demands on farmers, Mr Banfield said.
“The good news is that while all this may produce extra tasks, it does improve farm performance.
“We do have a responsibility for maintaining the countryside in Dorset, and you can only do that with profitable farms.”
Bovine TB is another issue dairy and beef farmers have to contend with.
Mr Banfield said: “Farmers in Dorset are playing their part in trying to control the disease but if there's a reservoir of wildlife affected you have to tackle it with everything you’ve got.”
He added: “Vaccines will play a part in that.”
Through his work on the representatives’ board, Mr Banfield has had the opportunity to meet farmers from across Europe.
He said: “It’s nice to have your horizons widened a little and to know that a lot of the issues are the same, whether you’re farming in Dorset or Germany.
“The fact that we can expand that market place is something I find fascinating. It’s something we wouldn’t have even dreamt of a decade ago.”