New UK dairy group under fire already

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dairy farmers, Board of directors

A new industry association has been set up in an effort to unite
the UK dairy sector against mounting market pressures. It is hoped
that Dairy UK, which comes into force this week, will help develop
the UK milk market, but concerns have already been raised about how
much emphasis will be placed on helping grass roots producers, as
Tom Armitage reports.

A handful of dairy farmers have drawn attention to what has been described as "inadequate representation"​ for dairy producers on the UK Dairy board. Dairy farmers will have just two 'representatives' on the council's board: Gwyn Jones, chairman of the National Farmers Union (NFU) dairy board, and Wesley Abbey, vice-chairman of Arla Foods Milk Partnership.

The remaining board members include representatives from the four major UK-based milk processors, retail milk distributors, and the four major farmer-owned co-operatives.

A spokesperson for Farmers for Action (FFA), a pressure group whose objective is to secure a sustainable level of income for farmers and growers, lambasted the new industry body. "This is going to give producers no power whatsoever and will do nothing for milk prices."

Tim Brigstocke, chairman of The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, conceded that "we need assurance that within the new organisation, dairy farmers are sufficiently represented"​, but he was quick to refute the claims of the FFA, urging "all producers and processors to get behind the initiative".

So far, the majority of dairy farmers appear to look favourably on the opportunity to unite the dairy industry, particularly in light of looming Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms.

NFU President, Tim Bennett, said that "Dairy UK would help British milk producers make the transition towards a market driven industry"​, highlighting the lack of unity among dairy farmers which had added to the industry's ailing fortunes.

"In order to ensure a sustainable and profitable milk supply into the future we must collectively improve supply chain operations and efficiency, to protect the image of our product and seek new opportunities,"​ he said.

His comments were also echoed by the NFU's Gwyn Jones, who said that the "industry has never faced so many challenges"​, among which include "persistently low milk prices, food hygiene and retail consolidation issues".

The Dairy UK industry association will also offer a range of professional services to its members and promote supply chain solutions, as well as seeking to lobby EU, national and regional authorities on a range of regulatory issues affecting the whole of the dairy supply chain.

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