NFU provides evidence to Efra Committee inquiry into milk prices

Ruthless retail milk discounting is not sustainable, and ultimately will damage the sustainability of the UK dairy industry, NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison said today.

Giving evidence to the Efra Select Committee on the current dairy price situation, Mr Harrison stated that while the farm gate milk price downturn has been caused as the twin result of increased global production and reduced global demand, there are a number of clear things that can be done to cushion the impact on farm.

“We know that Government can’t step in to the market, but they can support our hard working dairy farmers at national and European level. In Brussels they can back the NFU’s call for a review of the intervention price for dairy products as well as a targeted re-opening of Private Storage Aid for cheese – something that can help rebalance the EU market. We’re also calling on them to continue their work on seeking new export opportunities and promoting our high quality dairy products both within Europe and outside.

“To help push consumption we urge policymakers to improve the labelling of dairy products – to ensure consumers are buying British – and to be more co-ordinated in their health messages and campaigns – dairy products are, and will continue to be a vital part of a healthy, balanced diet. And to help farmers better manage volatility we have called on Government to help develop a farm management deposit scheme and to extend profit averaging to five years, such as was recently announced by the Irish Government

“We would also like to see the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator extended down the supply chain to cover farmers’ relationships with processors. We believe this would bring better transparency to the impact of the ongoing liquid milk discounting that we’re all seeing in our retailers. The NFU has already written to all the major supermarkets to ask the simple question, ‘what are you doing to support British dairy farmers’, as there are a number of areas that can be improved. A number of dairy farmers are within dedicated supply relationships, but using milk as a loss leader puts downward pressure on the whole industry and while farmers’ margins are being squeezed by global and political issues we need our domestic retailers to support our farmers more than ever.

“Today another milk buyer announced farm gate milk price cuts for December. We now need Government to do all it can to support a sustainable supply of milk going forward as we know the public are rightly proud of the high quality dairy products British farmers produce.”

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