The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has called
for the industry to unite at the earliest and establish a National
Dairy Body to introduce a voluntary milk regulator and the concept
of Fair Trade Milk. Furthermore, the association remains quietly
optimistic that the recently established All Party Parliamentary
Group for Dairy Farmers will provide the necessary legislative
“The sector is in a bad state. Producer lack of confidence
is hanging over the industry like the Sword of Damocles,” commented
RABDF chairman Tim Brigstocke addressing the association’s
media briefing at the Dairy Event, on Wednesday 20 September. “The
milk cost price gap continues to widen, so it’s hardly surprising
the mass exodus continues. On average, almost three farmers per
day left dairying in the last 12 months, and among those quitting
are the more progressive and business orientated producers. There
is a desperate need to do something.
“Three years ago, RABDF called for a national plan to develop
a sustainable food chain that encouraged dynamism and diversity.
There was much reluctance to such an approach, the view being that
there was no one blueprint acceptable to all,” he explained. “The
fact remains that we still do not have a route map forward and
in our view, unless there is a clear strategy set out, things will
not improve. To achieve this, we need consensus in the industry.
The Dairy Supply Chain Forum has continued to do useful work, and
a plethora of proposals have been written by various industry organizations.
However despite all this, in the last few months we have had continuing
milk price cuts made on very dubious grounds.
“Therefore, we believe that we need to establish a truly
active National Dairy Body. This has never before been more important,
and let’s not forget that the UK is virtually unique among
the other major milk producing countries in not having such a body.
It would be made up of all sides, develop industry wide tactical
and strategic plans and make better intelligence and awareness
of overseas trends and opportunities for market development. RABDF
would be willing to be subsumed in to such a bigger and effective
national body if it was going to lead to a more sustainable and
profitable dairy farming sector.
“Furthermore, the body would demonstrate true leadership.
It would have the opportunity to demonstrate responsibility and
urge Government to introduce a voluntary milk regulator, an Ofmilk,
to improve price transparency in the dairy food chain, identify
available margin and ensure a fair return throughout that supply
chain,” he said.
“The OFT has indicated it is not adverse to any voluntary
initiative to get the dairy market working properly, at least in
the short term, and therefore in principle it would not be opposed
to an Ofmilk that could help build some trust and confidence in
the industry which it so desperately needs.
“During the past 12 months, the whole concept of Fair Trade
for developing countries has taken off. Fair Trade coffee is all
the rage. So how about a Fair Trade Milk UK or Fair Trade for UK
Mr Brigstocke said while it was fully accepted that the market
ultimately decided the size and shape of the sector, when it came
to ensuring a level playing field across the dairy supply chain
then the industry should not underestimate the power of local MPs
and Parliament. “Just consider the impact in recent weeks
of back bench Labour MPs on the future of our Prime Minister,” he
“MPs’ measure of concern for dairy producers is already
reflected in the recently formed All Party Parliamentary Group
for Dairy Farmers chaired by Daniel Kawczynski MP. Within weeks
its membership has grown to more than 70 cross party MPs,” explained
Mr Brigstocke. “In fact, we are urging all farmers to encourage
their MP to join the group because we firmly believe that the advent
of a strong APPG for Dairy Farmers could be the lever to bring
about the much needed change. Despite some people’s views,
Parliament can create a legislative framework for a sustainable
industry. We believe that the concept of a fair return, through
an independent Fair Trade UK Milk brand is one that all could support.”
He added: “It’s up to the industry ourselves to sort
out our own problems. We believe that the concept of a fair return
for dairy farmers is one that all could support. However in the
end it will be the market that decides and this is why a shortened
dairy supply chain, where there is mutual appreciation and support
for each other, has to be the ultimate goal.”
Dairy Industry Needs Strong Regulator
24th Northern Expo Holstein Show
Farm diversification opportunities at the Dairy Event 2006