Government must recognise needs of British dairy sector to help it thrive post-Brexit, says NFU

NFU deputy president Minette Batters has called on Government to recognise the specific needs of the British dairy industry to ensure it remains competitive in a post-Brexit era.

At the South West Dairy Show, Mrs Batters will tell industry representatives that the policies must be right on trade, labour and a domestic agricultural policy.

She said: “Currently the EU is UK dairy’s biggest trading partner with 80% of our exports going there. Any future deal with the EU must maintain two-way tariff-free trade in agricultural goods and must avoid costly and disruptive customs checks, processes and procedures.

“South West dairy companies such as Wyke Farm, OMSCo, Quicke’s, Lynher Daires and Barbers have led the way in finding new EU and non-EU markets for their high quality dairy products and we need to ensure that any future trade deals don’t jeopardise the hard work that’s already been carried out.

“Domestically, import displacement offers a significant opportunity for the UK dairy industry as we are only around 75% self-sufficient. This is especially true for products such as Cheddar cheese and yoghurt which we can produce here given the right production and processing incentives and support.

“Some industry experts have labelled this past summer a ‘dairy labour crisis’. Today there are 43 adverts for dairy herdsmen in the Farmers Weekly and a backlog of jobs to fill with most dairy labour agencies. Dairy farms are closing, not because of milk price, but because they can’t find able staff to take on the roles available.

“If Government wants the dairy industry to produce more, consume more and export more, we need an urgent solution to the lack of availability of dairy farm labour – this cannot currently be filled by domestic or migrant workers.

“The forthcoming Agriculture Bill provides a huge opportunity for the NFU to influence policy makers on what agriculture needs to be competitive, progressive and profitable in the future. Government must create a legislative framework that works best for British farmers.

“In dairy we need support for productivity and risk management. It’s good to see many South West buyers starting to provide options to their suppliers in managing milk price risk – this needs to be the norm though not the exception.

“The NFU is calling for improved market transparency in order to build greater trust across the supply chain and as a necessary basis for the development of market based risk management tools.  But for this to work we need mandatory price and volume reporting and better collaboration and trust between dairy farmers, their milk buyers and the wider supply chain – the South West is leading the way here with various structures of farmer representation.

“The short term future is bright for British dairy farmers. But we need to make sure the policy is right on trade, labour and domestic agricultural policy to ensure that they can also thrive in the medium and long term.”

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.