Politics of food dominating dairy agenda says David Curry : Dairy UK

UK - The politics of food is set to dominate the agenda of the dairy industry, the Rt Hon. David Curry, chairman of Dairy UK, said tonight (Wednesday).
calendar icon 8 November 2006
clock icon 2 minute read

Issues which a few years ago had been marginal both to political decision-taking and to strategic planning across much of industry have shot into the mainstream.

Mr Curry said food miles, fair trade, environmental sustainability combined with a rapidly changing British society meant that the food industry would have to adapt to change with the same energy as the consumer electronics industry.

Speaking at the Dairy UK annual dinner in London, Mr Curry said that the industry balance sheet was positive but the challenge unremitting.

He said: “Rationalisation is under way. We have seen the industry replacing plant and equipment. Farmers are getting an increased stake in upstream activity”.

He said that Dairy UK had done an immense amount of work to explain the industry’s situation to the competition authorities to permit the rationalisation necessary if the industry was to operate off a lower cost base. “I think we are now having a much more balanced and constructive dialogue on these issues than before,” said Mr Curry.

But the Food Standards Agency is now a major interlocutor of Dairy UK. “We understand the demands of the new politics of lifestyle. We appreciate the importance of healthy diet. We share the need to give the consumer reliable information. What we want is to make sure that there is a solid scientific base to policy and that the FSA – and the Government - prefers to be practical and pragmatic rather than dogmatic,” he argued.

Mr Curry acknowledged that some people seemed to want to restore the comfort blanket of a managed market in milk as a response to the problem of farm incomes. “No Government will contemplate such a move,” he cautioned. “The industry has taken too long to shake off the incubus of the managed market which worked against innovation and the creation of added value products. There is no choice but to tough it out in the real world of competition.

“This is not an easy message and no-one, least of all an MP representing an upland area in the UK which suffered grievously from foot and mouth disease and is being painfully hit by the chaos of the introduction of single farm payments, dismisses the real problems farmers have to earn a living and to invest in the present climate. But it is a necessary and an inevitable message,” Mr Curry declared.

 An industry offering consumers what they wanted, with the assurance of origin, excellence, welfare and sustainable production was not an option- it was a requirement. With nearly 5 million extra households expected to be created in England alone over the next 20 years there is a market to fight for and to win.

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