Friday, 20 July 2012

Milk Scam: Lies, Damned Lies and Farmers' Statistics

I was suspicious of the sudden story of poor dairy farmers going bust, from moment I saw it. If, as suggested by countless news stories, farmers were being forced to sell milk at a loss, then surely ALL of them would go bust? It just didn't make sense. And seeing all these poor, overworked farmers protesting in their tractors and Range Rovers increased the sense of unreality.

Obvious questions arose:

  1. Why are farmers so visible when their lifestyle is affected - milk prices and fox hunting - and so invisible when other rural issues arise, such as the death of the village post office, school and pub; the rise in rural housing costs for workers? Even the rural petrol price issue didn't pull many farmers off the shooting ranges.
  2. Why would anyone sign a contract that allowed a partner to reduce prices at will? Isn't that insanity?
  3. Why would the processors drop the price to a level that would cut off their source of supply?

None of them easy questions, and I have no answers ... but the fact these questions were unasked and unanswered suggested something was going on ... cock-up or conspiracy?

A quick look at Twitter found a number of tweets and retweets by 'Mags'

Note her blurb looks written by a PR 'executive', and her picture is in the same format - with the same '#sosdairy' - as scores of others. 

I wonder how many farmer's wives get to work for PR companies; not many, is my guess. 

"Mags" led me to a graph purporting to show liquid milk gross margins, attributed to DairyCo, whose 'experts' "work to provide you with independent, evidence-based information and resources for your dairy farming business. From world class research .... "

That's what I needed; independent, world class research! For copyright reasons, I have redrawn* the graph - all the figures are the same, I've just added an extra column on the left:

So what's wrong with their story?
  1. The actual cost of milk was not shown, and is - best guess - between 18 and 22 pence per Litre
  2. The chart says 'gross margins', but it is implied that the blue areas are profit - 'gain' - taking no account of the processor's processing cost, or the retailers' distribution costs. Not all gain by any means.
  3. The 'Farmer Loss' just isn't a loss, it's merely a price reduction. 
Without them telling us the actual cost of milk production, processing and distribution, we cannot conceivably know what loss there is, and to whom.

Interestingly, Mags credits as well ... an organisation that claims to be "an independent fact-checking organisation." I guess they took a day off.

We have here a collection of misinformation, being actively fomented on Twitter by a self-proclaimed 'farmer's wife'. 

A web of half-truths spread by 'her', and supported by so many 'independent' agencies and people, none of whom have noticed the distortion of facts.

It's pure scam - getting poor people like Jennie Macfie (motto: Tell the truth & shame the devil") to spread the garbage further, forcing her to betray her own grandmother, as well as pay 30% more for her milk at M&S than the £1 for four pints at Morrison, ASDA or Iceland.

It's a PR cock-up, which has apparently involved respected organisations in the fact fiddling, like  and  DairyCo.

Don't be taken in by Farmer's Wives

 - or Farmers' Lies

*Graph drawn to best of my abilities; any errors are mine and I apologise.


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