Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs secretary of state Elizabeth Truss chaired the summit in central London. Attendants included Peter Kendall, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board president and former president of the National Farmers Union (NFU).
“The NFU is pleased that the secretary of state has listened to our calls for a dairy roundtable discussion so we can start to look at finding both short and longer term solutions for the extreme market volatility that’s been undermining the confidence of dairy farmers up and down the country,” said current NFU president Meurig Raymond.
Aims of meeting
Referring to the aims of the meeting, he said he believed it needed to:
- support the dairy industry’s ‘Leading the Way’ strategy, launched in June 2014, which called for an elimination of UK dairy trade deficit by 2025
- address relief measures from the government, banks, processors and retailers to ease the financial crisis hitting many UK dairy farmers – these could include immediate payment of overdue Single Payment Scheme amounts and a lifting of the EU dairy intervention price
- “develop more balanced ways of managing risk in contracts when quotas are removed” – milk buyers should offer fairer, more transparent agreements to suppliers and not use the market situation to take advantage of them
- promote producer groups, which could strengthen farmers’ negotiation and bargaining power
- help farmers to access measures to manage market volatility – including the ability to average profits over longer periods, improved milk pricing mechanisms, consideration of cost production and longer term pricing.
“For the future, we need to learn from successful models in New Zealand and the US where farmers can manage risk by utilising dairy futures markets,” said Raymond.
“Now is not the time to allocate blame for what is a worldwide collapse in dairy prices but rather to unite in the cause of British dairy farming.”
Dairy UK has launched a manifesto setting out what the dairy industry expected of the main political parties as they prepared to fight the forthcoming general election in May.
Secure supply chain
It called on the government to promote British milk and dairy as nutrient-rich foods in a healthy and balanced diet and maintain a safe and secure dairy supply chain.
The document also said the government should guarantee an environment that fostered growth in the industry.
Many UK dairy farmers have been struggling with plunging milk prices off the back of oversupply in the market over the past few months.