Archive: 25th annual Semex dairy conference offers view to the future

Published 15 January 15

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The 25th annual Semex dairy conference, held on 12 and 13 January in Glasgow, centred on how the industry can best deal with the changing environment in which it is operating. Topics covered the spectrum of market volatility, retailer and shopper behaviour, advances in research and animal health and welfare.

Meurig Raymond, President of the NFU, and David Handley, Chairman of Farmers for Action, opened the conference by highlighting the immense pressures the industry is currently facing as a result of the global oversupply situation. Both speakers admitted it was difficult to find any good news to focus on at the moment and stressed the importance of finding solutions to the issues of market volatility, sustainable milk pricing and low investment to ensure an efficient and competitive dairy industry for the future.

Åke Hantoft, Chairman of Arla Foods amba, provided an overview of the drivers behind the collapse in global dairy commodity markets along with an insider’s view of the cooperatives strategy for driving value growth for its milk, and how this is shared with its farmer owners. Neil Kennedy, Interim Chief Executive of Adams Foods and Danielle Pinnington of Shoppercentrics highlighted the challenges and opportunities facing manufacturers due to changes in consumer behaviour and the structure of the retail market. The importance of a well-defined growth strategy which matches production growth to demand was highlighted in order to avoid reducing the value of products through over-supply. It was also noted that a focus on shoppers’ requirements, in terms of product and location, would open up new opportunities to add value.

A presentation by Dr Lewis James, Lecturer in Sports Nutrition at Loughborough University showed how milk and milk proteins can enhance post-exercise recovery and potentially limit weight gain provided another example of how milk can provide value to consumers. This message was repeated by the CEO of Semex, who firmly placed the success and growth of its business on the fact that it provides ‘solutions not products’.

More practical dairy farming issues, including the importance of good husbandry and the ability of farmers to manage disease were covered by Gwyn Jones in his role of Chairman of RUMA (Responsible use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance) and two veterinary medicine experts -  Professor John Fetrow of the University of Minnesota and Sally Wilson of Evolution Farm Vets.