Robert Graham, md of Graham’s the Family Dairy, claimed it was never “more important than now” for dairy producers to capitalise on the potential of the domestic market.
An increase in capacity would act as a “pipeline” for new product development, innovation, inclusive skills development and export potential, Graham suggested. All were central to building a resilient post-Brexit economy, he added.
Graham said the industry in Scotland could create opportunities that would result in more jobs, stronger international trade and economic resilience.
“Dairy is perfectly positioned to support job creation and wellbeing programmes at a global scale,” he explained. “In doing so, the sector can grow Scotland’s gross domestic product, forge career pathways and support education programmes.”
Second largest net dairy deficit
The UK currently has the second largest net dairy deficit in the world, behind China, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
This deficit is largely driven by cheese imports, which made up around half of the value of the UK’s total dairy imports in 2015, said AHDB.
Graham warned that Brexit could result in the World Trade Organisation’s tariff levy of 36% being applied to imported dairy products. The challenge and opportunity, he claimed, was how to mitigate the risk of such tariffs through measures that grow the UK economy.
“In 2016, Scotland’s food and drink exports reached a record high of £5.5bn, yet around 90% of all spreadable butter and yogurt sold in Scotland is not produced here,” Graham explained.
“It’s never been more important than now to play to our strengths and think big. We need to grow domestic production capacity to develop and sell more home-grown products and support businesses.”
Create 450 new jobs
In 2015, Graham’s announced plans to build a new £20M dairy in Stirling, which would include a research and education facility. The 13,900m2 site would create 450 new jobs and have production lines for milk, cream, cheese and butter.
The firm currently operates a dairy in nearby Bridge of Allan, and a processing plant in Nairn. The new development hinges on the approval of land adjacent to the current site being developed for housing.
“Should the housing development be approved, we will deliver much needed housing and facilities for the local area, as well as facilitate a step-change investment strategy, increasing productivity, supporting skills development and accelerating new product development,” said Graham.
Operating for 76 years, Graham’s makes a range of dairy products, including milk, cheese, cream, butter, ice-cream, cottage cheese, quark, sour cream and yogurt.