Labour MEPs yesterday called for the EU, UK government and consumers to act to ensure British farmers get a fair deal.
At a time when many dairy farmers report they are paid less per litre of milk than it costs to produce, Labour MEPs have called on British consumers to ask important questions of their supermarkets; to find out if a fair price has been paid to the farmer.
The call is part of a series of measures, intended to inject fairness into the relationship between dairy farmers, processors, supermarkets and, importantly, customers.
The Labour Party wants to see more powers given to the Groceries Code Adjudicator, whose role it is to ensure there is fair play between British food processors and retailers, enabling the adjudicator to take action across the supply chain.
Labour is also pressing the UK government to write to banks, encouraging them to be as supportive as possible of dairy farmers during this difficult period, including making loans available.
Labour MEP for the South West, Clare Moody, said:
I’m very pleased to support this initiative. Farming, and dairy farming in particular, is such an integral part of the fabric of the South West and so many livelihoods depend on it.
This issue raises concerns for consumers, too. As my colleague, Paul Brannan MEP, explained, cheap food is no guarantee of quality produce. If British dairy farmers go out of business, consumers will increasingly have to buy imported milk from abroad, and without the Red Tractor mark there is no guarantee of high standards, including those relating to animal welfare.
We’ve seen before, with the Fair Trade campaigns on ethical and sustainable arrangements for producers in developing nations, just how effective consumer pressure can be at influencing the behavior of retailers. Now we must apply those principals a little closer to home.
Paul Brannen MEP, Labour's European Parliament spokesperson on agriculture and rural development, said:
It is simply not fair for a dairy farmer to be paid less for a litre of milk than it costs to produce. We must collectively and speedily inject fairness into the relationship between dairy farmers, processors, supermarkets and, importantly, customers.
It is clear customers have an important role to play, by demonstrating to the supermarkets that they do not want to be unwittingly involved in putting UK dairy farmers out of business as a result of buying cheap milk.
Sian Davies, chief dairy adviser of the National Farmers Union, added:
The UK’s dairy farmers very much appreciate the spotlight being shone on this issue by Paul Brannen MEP and his colleagues. We very much agree that the dairy sector needs support from every angle at the moment, and that includes work in Brussels in overcoming barriers to export markets and reviewing the EU intervention price for dairy products. Back home in the UK we're heartened by consumer interest in and support for our dairy farmers and the high quality dairy products they produce. We continue to ask consumers to buy British on all dairy products.