The Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has announced that a meeting held yesterday between ministers and farming leaders, discussing the current dairy crisis, was encouraging. The government have identified the need for supermarkets to indicate on labels whether their fresh food is from Britain.
Truss claimed that currently, less than half the butter and cheese eaten in Britain is made from British milk and said that shoppers should be made aware of the origins of their products.
In addition, farmers unions called for retailers to provide clearer sourcing policies and employ “better, more consistent promotion” of British produce.
Truss commented: “I want to see better branding and clearer labelling of dairy products in supermarkets, retailers and throughout the catering industry so that people know when they are buying British, and we have agreed to have further discussions with the food industry on this.”
In the current crisis many British farms are on the brink of closure. Meurig Raymond, the NFU President, said that the latest meeting was promising as it showed that the government recognised the scale of the problem.
“The most important thing was a recognition of the crisis and that the supply chain needs to work better so that farmers are not the only ones carrying the risk at times of volatility [in milk prices].”
“Cashflow is very tough. Farmers will be making decisions in the next two months. We need to get more money to farmers before they make a decision to leave.” Meurig added.
The Environment Secretary has agreed to create a new working group to discuss farming contracts. At a meeting next month for European agriculture ministers, Truss will also encourage the creation of a new futures and insurance market in dairy products to protect farmers from fluctuations in prices.
She said: “It was an encouraging meeting and I believe we can help build stronger foundations that give the industry the long-term stability and commercial opportunities it needs to manage global volatility.”
“I recognise the seriousness of the current situation for the dairy industry and for farming as a whole. Our hardworking farmers and the £100bn food and farming industry are vital for our economy and our countryside.”
“It is in everyone’s interest that supermarkets, caterers and the food industry have a secure supply of milk. That’s why I am pleased to see some supermarkets share the risk with farmers over price fluctuations. We are urgently setting up a new working group with the UK farming ministers and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board to develop best-practice models with the industry.”
Further, Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco are due to hold talks with farmers today following recent protests at their distribution centres against the supermarkets’ dairy imports.