The British Milk Industry.

In Parliament I am very involved with the UK Dairy industry in my role as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dairy. Over recent years I have been doing a lot of work about the dramatic fall in Milk prices our Farmers are receiving per litre.

Farmers need certainty on the price they receive and, although progress has been mixed, there have been breakthroughs. In 2007 Tesco launched the ‘Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group’ and, on February 1st this year they revised this to further support this sustainable farming group. A brilliant part of the new review is all milk will be supplied by the core producers, who are the farmers who abide by the Group’s principles and high standards. Belonging to the Group acts as an incentive for the farmers as their milk is guaranteed to be bought if they continue to drive up standards of animal welfare, milk quality and environmental management. As important as having a guaranteed market, Tesco have also guaranteed a higher price to our farmers in South Derbyshire and the rest of the Country.

With this announcement they are also creating a ‘core reserve pool’ for young/new farmers who want to join the group which will help keep Dairy Farming viable for future generations. Furthermore the price per litre will be updated on a quarterly rather than a six monthly basis which will allow for changes in costs such as feed and fertiliser to be factored in more regularly giving farmers a more realistic price for their milk. This new agreement with Tesco is a move in the right direction towards an increased milk price and a more sustainable industry, many of the other milk providers could learn from this.

However, the future remains uncertain for the 2,700 farmers who supply Arla which includes a number of South Derbyshire milk producers. In a blow to the industry Arla has reduced its on-account price per litre by another 1 pence taking their standardised litre price to a derisory 19.12 pence. They say this reduction is due to global market conditions, which I and the APPG recognise is having a detrimental effect, but I had hoped the market, companies and cooperatives would be gradually increasing the price by now.

So the news is mixed but I will continue to work to ensure our farmers get the right deal and encourage Public Health England to revise back their ridiculous new Dairy consumption recommendations.

We need our farmers to survive, they are the guardians of our countryside and I would like to encourage everyone to support our UK Farmers on and beyond World Milk Day on June 1st and show our appreciation and commitment by buying British.

(This article was originally written for the Burton Mail).