Milk bottles (c) Rex Features

Dairy coalition members have warned milk buyers they must abide by the dairy code – or face being “named and shamed”.


Some milk buyers are still not implementing the voluntary dairy industry code of practice in milk supply contracts, which was agreed in September, a coalition meeting was told at NFU headquarters in Stoneleigh on Thursday (17 January).


The coalition, which consists of various farming unions and dairy groups, also called for further increases in the milk price as a matter of urgency to help farmers struggling with spiralling costs this winter.


Farmers for Action chairman David Handley said despite all the efforts of the SOS Dairy campaign farmgate milk prices for deliveries in January were typically only 1-2p/litre higher than in April 2012. However, since then costs of production have risen by 3-4p/litre.


Mr Handley said: “Farmers need to see improving dairy market conditions translated into farmgate milk price rises.”


NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond said: “If co-ops, smaller processors or any milk buyer for that matter thinks the code doesn’t apply to them, they are wrong.


“It is the responsibility of every milk buyer to ensure the voluntary approach to improving milk contracts succeeds. The alternative is legislation and the coalition will not rest until we see better more balanced contracts for dairy farmers.”


“It is the responsibility of every milk buyer to ensure the voluntary approach to improving milk contracts succeeds. The alternative is legislation and the coalition will not rest until we see better more balanced contracts for dairy farmers.”
Mansel Raymond, NFU dairy board chairman

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “I am laying the challenge down to David Heath to put his full support and force behind the full implementation of the code.


“As a coalition we are committed to the success of the code and trust DEFRA to be equally committed. That said, we welcome David Heath’s recent challenge to processors, when he told the Dairy UK board that if contracts do not improve via the voluntary route, DEFRA will look to legislate.”


Gary Mitchell, NFU Scotland’s milk committee chairman, said processors and Dairy UK had suggested that the end of March was a realistic time by which contracts will be improved.


“While we’d like to see improvements before this date, we certainly will not sanction delays beyond this,” he added.


“We will challenge retailers and food businesses to only buy milk via compliant contracts or from processors that comply with the code, and non-compliance will be made very public.”


The code of best practice on contractual relationships in milk was designed to build a fair and functioning marketplace and help secure the long-term future of the UK dairy industry.


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