Dairy UK pushes for consolidation-friendly competition policy
As a national election approaches, Dairy UK has stepped up its lobbying with the publication of a manifesto outlining what the industry needs from the next government.
Covering industry wide measures, farming policy, nutrition and the environment, “The Dairy Manifesto” presents political leaders with a blueprint for dairy action.
One of these recommendations is that government should relax competition policy to allow further consolidation. Dairy UK claims this is in the interests of dairy processors and producers alike.
Pointing out the absence of UK dairy companies in the world top 10, the manifesto states: “Significant opportunities for further efficiency gains are available to the industry through further consolidation, and this is vital to compete globally.”
Dairy UK policy director Peter Dawson told DairyReporter.com that competition authorities should take a long term view of what constitutes the consumer interest and realise that a vibrant UK dairy sector is an important consideration.
Dawson said UK dairy companies have to compete internationally and need to be able to consolidate to do so effectively.
To give an idea of what Dairy UK is seeking to avoid, Dawson cited the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) referral to the Competition Commission of the Dairy Crest sale of Milway to Long Clawson in 2008. He said the OFT, which was concerned that the sale would create a monopoly in the Stilton cheese market, failed to recognise that Stilton has to compete with other blue cheeses.
Dairy UK summarised its manifesto into five main priorities:
- Increase research and development in agriculture to raise productivity and protect UK food security
- Stress the importance of dairy in a balanced diet to keep the nation healthy
- Ensure competition policy allows UK dairy companies are able to compete at a global scale
- Keep supporting the Milk Roadmap to give farmers and processors confidence to invest in green measures
- Urgently tackle bovine TB to boost milk output and farmer confidence
Ahead of national elections to be held later this year in the UK, “The Dairy Manifesto” is envisaged by Dairy UK director general Jim Begg as a tool that will give the next government the tools it needs to make the right decisions for the UK dairy industry.
Begg said: “If the new government followed these proposals, it would give the UK dairy sector much needed confidence to invest in the future and protect our food security.”
The Dairy UK manifesto can be viewed from the homepage of the trade association, which can be accessed by clicking here.