DAIRY FARMERS must begin to expect competition from abroad in the fresh dairy product market, according to Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of the Institute of Grocery Distribution.

“I recently saw a fresh dairy product from Poland on display in a UK supermarket within 24 hours of manufacture,” she told delegates at the Semex dairy conference in Glasgow.

“We can‘t take the home market for granted, even in fresh milk.”

The UK dairy industry must move away from commodity products, use every available method to improve efficiency, and strip out all unnecessary costs from the supply chain, she said.

“The evidence I have seen, particularly from IGD‘s consumer research, suggests the market is ready for a new chapter, in which there is much greater tailoring to individual needs with more emphasis on quality and less on price.”

Benchmarking is a vital step in improving supply chain efficiency, she said, adding that a “raft” opportunities for savings could be found.

She cited IGD‘s findings in red meat production chains, where savings worth 10-20% of the final selling price had been identified.

The same could happen in the dairy sector, and a three-year study has just been launched covering eight dairy chains, she said.