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Stackyard News Sep 06

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RABDF calls for National Dairy Body

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 framework.


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“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 Dairy Farmers?”

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 commented.

“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.”

link Dairy Industry Needs Strong Regulator
link The 24th Northern Expo Holstein Show
link Farm diversification opportunities at the Dairy Event 2006

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