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Stackyard News Feb 07

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    APPG on Dairy Farming 2006 Annual Report

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 Farming

The Annual Report 2006 of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dairy Farming

While the report is tempered by natural differences of opinions, there are calls from members of the Group for a regulatory body to be considered.

“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 not enough.”

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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