The government’s 12 week consultation period with farmers and dairy producers on how to improve the fairness of milk contracts has come to an end.
Unfair practices have existed in the dairy industry for many years, with farmers bearing the brunt of the discrepancies. Reports on the matter suggest the unfairness is largely due to milk buyers having too much say in the price they pay for milk. They have the ability to set the price and are even able to change it with little notice to the supplier, creating a great deal of uncertainty.
So, in order to create a more level playing field, and as part of its response to the growing need to support dairy farmers during the coronavirus pandemic, the government launched the fairness consultation in June. The aim of this campaign was to gather insights from the farmers and processors themselves and see if anything can be done to improve fairness and transparency, particularly within the supply chain.
The farming Minister, Victoria Prentis, is keen to show her support for dairy farmers, saying: “It is absolutely vital that our dairy farmers are paid fairly for their high-quality produce and I am committed to cracking down on any unfair practices within the UK dairy industry.”
What dairy farmers & process had to say
Farmers from across the country took part in the consultation, with suggestions including introducing a mandatory pricing mechanism to ensure the price paid for milk is formally agreed within a contract. It would also mean any negotiations or changes would be conducted in an open and transparent way.
National Farmers’ Union's (NFU) chairman, Michael Oakes, welcomed the chance for farmers to have their say. In a blog post about the consultation, Mr Oakes said: “It was very uplifting to see so many of our dairy members dial in and take the opportunity to make their points, concerns and questions known, and this has only continued throughout regional meetings.”
Chief Executive of Dairy UK, Dr Judith Bryans, highlights that a positive outcome of this consultation is down to whether the government listens to and acts on the feedback. She said: “Ultimately the best outcome for both processors and farmers will be a decision based on totality of the evidence provided, and not one based only on emotion.”
She goes on to say that with an economy troubled by both Brexit and coronavirus, changes to contracts may have a negative impact on the industry: “There is already a lot on the plates of food businesses, to which regulation of contracts could significantly add to, if introduced.”
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