The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Dairy Farming published
its 2006 Annual Report this week. The report from the cross party
Group is the first produced since its formation in April 2006. The
aim of the group is to review the issues facing the Dairy Industry.
At present this is focusing on the price received by farmers from
the dairy processors and ultimately the supermarkets for their commodity.
The Annual Report 2006 of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dairy
While the report is tempered by natural differences of opinions,
there are calls from members of the Group for a regulatory body to
“I believe that with the failure of the supermarkets to
act to ensure farmers are paid a fair price for their milk, a regulator
or code of conduct that actually has power to act has to be considered”,
said the APPG’s Chairman Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury
and Atcham. “However, the meetings from the past year, and
discussions within the Group, are not entirely conclusive on the
fact, so other options have to be considered alongside regulation.”
With 100 MPs and Peers now in the highly successful Group, the
report has taken longer to compile than expected. The views of
many of the more active members have been sought in order to maintain
cross party consensus. However, the broad range of Group members
demonstrates the importance of the matter to both rural and urban-based
parliamentarians from all political persuasions.
The Group has met with several key players in the Dairy Industry
over the last eight months from processors to pressure groups and
the National Farmers Union; as well as the Rt Hon David Miliband
MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- all with their opinions on the way forward for the Industry.
“What is very clear is that the Industry is at times being
ripped-off by the powerful supermarkets for a product that is central
to our nation’s diet,” added Mr Kawczynski. “There
are examples of some of the smaller chains such as Waitrose and
Marks and Spencer acting to change this situation, but this is
The issue of milk prices has recently come to the fore, with both
a major petition from the Women’s Institute and ‘The
Great Milk Robbery’ campaign against the price paid to farmers
being seen in Westminster earlier this month.
“Farmers want a fair price for their milk, but the supermarkets
seek greater profit,” explained Mr Kawczynski. “Over
the last fifteen years the price of milk in the shops has risen
11 percent but the price paid to farmers fallen by 10 percent.
This is not a market force: the supermarkets should reflect the
fall in commodity price, or the farmers should share in the profit.
Either way this is evidence that the market alone is not guaranteeing
a fair price for milk.”
The Group plans to continue over the next few months to speak
with the majors and organisations that affect the Dairy Industry,
including reviewing increased costs to the industry relating to
disease and government regulation. However the focus will remain
on the price paid to farmers for their milk.
“While fair trade seems to be the hot topic in international
food production, there does not seem to be the same attitude for
producers in the UK,” Mr Kawczynski concluded. “Our
Dairy Industry will not survive without change at every level.
Farmers are trying to modernise and become more efficient, but
this is hard if the investment is not there. By receiving the price
that milk costs to produce, dairy farmers won’t need to take
loans to feed their families and will be able to invest in their
herds. Until then, the rich, powerful supermarkets have to do their
part to help this industry survive.”
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