‘Dairy industry must have competitive yet fair future’

January 31, 2015

Neil Parish

INCREASED POWERS: Former Somerset and Dorset MEP Neil Parish is a member of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs parliamentary select committee. The committee has called for the grocery code adjudicator for their powers to be strengthened to address the loss leading done by supermarkets and recent price cuts by processors.

David Handley

MISSING MONEY: David Handley, Farmers For Action chairman, who says in the report that cash in the milk supply chain cannot be tracked between the processor and supermarket.



A DEVON MP and former Somerset and Dorset MEP has been spelling out what needs to be done to address the crisis in the dairy industry.

Neil Parish is currently MP for Tiverton and Honiton but was formerly Conservative MEP for the South West between 1999 and 2010.

I previously worked closely with Neil and his Lib Dem colleague Graham Watson during my time in the Western Gazette in the politicians’ campaign to get a public inquiry into Tony Blair’s government for their handling of the 2001 Foot and Mouth crisis.

Following my campaign on highlighting the issue of falling milk prices on this website and the consequences of the wider threat to the countryside this brings, I would like to thank Neil for taking the time to make a personal and well thought out reply to the issues raised on here by farmers and the supply chain, not just in the area which this site serves but across the country.

As chairman of Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group, he brought together leading figures to a meeting convened at the end of October to thrash out a strategy to reverse the downward trend in milk prices being paid to dairy farmers by processors and supermarkets.

Those who attended and represented the industry were Farmers For Action chairman David Handley; Tim Brigstocke, policy director for the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers; Stephen Wyrill, chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association; Michael Oakes, vice-chairman of the NFU’s Dairy Board and Dr David Dobbin and Dr Judith Bryans, vice chairman and chief executive respectively of Dairy UK.

Mr Parish said: “As a former dairy farmer myself, and longstanding Dairy SOS supporter, I am deeply concerned over the recent drop in the price of milk paid to farmers.

“I’m delighted all dairy organisations agreed to meet with Dairy APPG members to discuss current challenges in the industry.

“I am aware that these are frustrating and difficult times for the dairy sector and I believe it is important to provide a forum of discussion to consider every option available to tackle these problems.

“Everyone around the table shares the same goal, which is to make this industry more profitable and competitive.

“Milk and dairy products are firm favourites for British consumers and the dairy industry is a key sector in the UK economy. Going forward, there are many ways to support our dairy producers not only by promoting consumption of dairy but also by working hard to dispel myths about dairy production and dairy nutrition.

The dairy parliamentary group has conducted an inquiry into how the country can support a competitive, innovative and sustainable dairy sector.

Mr Parish said: “We have to engage with stakeholders and experts to identify the best ways to do this and we hope to publish our findings in March.

“Separately the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, which I am a Member of, has published a report following an inquiry that calls for more protection against rapid cuts in milk prices.I am delighted that the Prime Minister is supporting the recommendation of the EFRA Select Committee to extend the power of the Adjudicator.

“The adjudicator’s powers are currently not extensive enough and new powers to investigate the relationship between processors, retailers and primary producers are needed.

“I also believe it is time the adjudicator to be given powers to investigate contracts between primary producers and retailers. I am confident that UK can have a dairy industry that is both competitive and fair to its farmers and I believe this is a positive step.”

In the EFRA’s committee report, there has been a specific call to increase the powers of the Grocery Code Adjudicator to monitor the relationships between the primary producer, the processor and the big retail chains both from the NFU and Farmers For Action, particularly the remit in how supermarkets treat dairy products as loss leaders.

David Handley is quoted in the report as saying: “Where we come adrift is we cannot track the money between the processor and the retailer, and that is where the adjudicator needs to be given the teeth to be able to do that.”

The NFU’s vice chairman Rob Harrison adds: “There is a lot of misunderstanding throughout the supply chain about what the code is there to do and how it should work.”

  • TO find out more about the Environment, Food and rural Affairs select committee report, click here.

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