East Anglia: Dairy farmers’ action call over milk buyers

Norfolk NFU county chairman Ken Proctor

Norfolk NFU county chairman Ken Proctor - Credit: submitted

STRUGGLING dairy farmers have urged the Government to ramp up pressure on its buyers who have failed to sign up to a new code to improve prices and contracts.

The dairy coalition – which is made of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland, Farmers For Action, Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA), Women’s Food and Farming Union and the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers – said patience was growing very thin and there were some buyers who had missed the deadline to sign up to a new voluntary code.

The industry body would not publicly list the buyers who had not signed up, but said it was urging farming minister David Heath to call in milk buyers who had failed to sign up.

TFA dairy representative Richard Elliot said: “Our members’ patience is growing very thin; if milk buyers can’t be trusted to do the right thing and work with farmers to deliver better contracts, then Government needs to step in. This isn’t rocket science; we just want a fair deal.”

NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond said: “While a number of large milk buyers are implementing the code, there are still some who have failed to step up to the mark and make the changes we have demanded.

“Since our March deadline passed, the coalition has been applying pressure in various ways to get processors to act. This has included calling on retailers to insist that their supply base offers farmers compliant contracts.

“This, however, isn’t enough. We need Defra to ramp up the pressure to ensure the code is the success it can and should be.”

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Norfolk NFU chairman Ken Proctor – a dairy farmer in Shipdham – said the industry had still not seen any improvements, and the process of implementing the code was very slow.

He said: “It was a voluntary process agreed by the processors and the farmers.

“We want more transparency in our contracts.

“We want better agreements on prices and we need a fair warning of price increases or decreases.”

Processors were given until March 31, 2013, to comply with the terms of the code by offering fairer and more balanced contracts to farmers.

The code was agreed voluntarily between farming and processing representatives, and has been adopted by Defra as the favoured policy alternative to legislation as proposed by the European Commission.

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