The Great Milk Debate Returns

UK - The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) is set to join forces with the National Farmers' Union (NFU) again to highlight the critical situation facing British dairy farmers.
calendar icon 25 August 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

The two organisations will be addressing the issues of alleged bullyboy tactics by supermarkets, the millions of pounds which fail to reach beyond the farmgate and what can be done to safeguard the industry’s long-term future.

Policy makers as well as representatives from major retailers and milk processors will be invited to November’s Great Milk Debate - an update of 2007’s event which saw thousands of people across the country campaign for improvements in the British dairy industry.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: “This campaign can’t come at a more urgent time when we know retailers are aggressively cutting the cost prices paid to processors. It is only a matter of time before this short-term and short-sighted approach affects dairy farmers throughout the country, at a time when many are considering their future in the industry.

“The NFU has already highlighted the need for an ombudsman to help scrutinise some of these damaging and unfair practices which threaten the long-term future of the dairy industry. Farmers will be increasingly angry as they watch milk sellers allow themselves to be influenced by bullyboy tactics. They will be even more frustrated by the fact that they know, as our Great Milk Robbery investigation revealed, millions of pounds seen in improved commodity markets has not been passed back to them.

“Therefore the two organisations remain committed to not only finding out what is going on but also improving the conduct of milk buyers and retailers who aren't developing long-term relationships with a decent return for producers.”

The Great Milk Debate campaign led to a change in a number of supply chain arrangements but many farmers still find themselves at a disadvantage.

Mr Kendall added: "While a great deal of progress has been made by some retailers to establish dedicated relationships with the dairy farmers who supply them with liquid milk, there is much more that can be done.

“Some multiple retailers have not matched these efforts and we've seen little effort devoted to establishing a commitment to dairy farmers producing cheese. We'll be standing shoulder to shoulder with the WI to ask why and to campaign for a better deal for the sector."

Ruth Bond, chair of the NFWI, said: “WI members got behind the UK’s dairy farmers in their thousands when we last joined forces for the Great Milk Debate. However, they are increasingly concerned that momentum has been lost and many farmers are still struggling to make a decent living.

“By revisiting the Great Milk Debates we hope to show that consumers have a real stake in the vibrancy of the British dairy industry. We will be calling on retailers, processors and the government to play their part in ensuring there is a long-term future for British milk.”

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