New Calls to Support British Dairy Industry After Union Summit

UK - Union officials and farmers called for the British public to back home-produced dairy after an urgent meeting of UK unions on the low price crisis.
calendar icon 11 August 2015
clock icon 3 minute read

The urgent summit, held in London on Monday, discussed the low prices currently being paid to farmers for their produce.

Some farmers are facing financial devastation, particularly in the dairy and lamb sectors, with many farmers paid below the cost of production.

The summit followed rising anger in recent weeks, with roadblocks and 'trolley dashes' through supermarkets used as protests against processors and retailers. The protests culminated with a cow led into a supermarket in Staffordshire over the weekend, which was photographed by shoppers before being led away by police.

Following the meeting, the four union Presidents of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers Union together with FFA, TFA, CLA and NFYFC, issued a joint statement asking for action from government, retailers and the EU. 

To the British public, they said: “Thank you for your support. Please keep asking retailers what they are doing to ensure their farmers receive a fair price and above all keep buying British.”

Government warned over dire price situation

The unions told regulators, retailers and processors not to ignore the warning signs that farming was in a state of emergency.

To the UK's government, they said that voluntary codes of practice were not working and action is needed to "ensure that contracts to all farmers are longer-term and fairer in apportioning risk and reward."

"At the moment in many contracts all the risk is put on the farmer with very little of the reward," the unions said.

Whilst the UK government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has not released a statement on the situation, Scotland's Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said that the Scottish government is taking "taking a range of active steps to provide support as set out in our Dairy Plan".

Specifically, he called for more transparency from retailers on the prices they pay to farmers, allowing consumers to choose products on this basis; and an increase in promotion of UK dairy products overseas, where he said they "attract a premium price of up to 15 per cent more than that paid in this country".

"I have written to my UK counterparts calling for a joint ministerial meeting on this issue," he said.

The unions asked UK ministers to stand up for British agriculture at an EU farming meeting on 7 September, and to ensure that appropriate safety nets are in place for businesses.

Arla announces new marketing campaign

Meanwhile, milk co-operative Arla has announced a new 'Farmer-Owned' marque to identify its products on supermarket shelves, as part of a new marketing campaign.

The marque aims to show off the products as ‘responsibly sourced from a farmer-owned business where all the profits go back to its owners’ and where ‘the highest expectations for animal welfare and environmental standards’ have been met.

The NFU said this was a "positive move towards increased transparency and accountability in the way milk is sourced and labelled in the UK."

"This is a credible alternative to other industry models," said the NFU, but added: "It is important that this marque delivers benefits for the long term, as well has helping alleviate current pressures."

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