19 July 2002

Lack of school milk is big loss in liquid sales

By Andrew Shirley

DAIRY farmers lose out on an extra 140m litres of liquid milk consumption a year, because only a fifth of eligible youngsters are drinking free milk at school.

In total, the extra amount of subsidised liquid milk not claimed by local authorities throughout the country has a farm gate value of £22.5m. And industry analysts are backing farmers weeklys Milk Matters Campaign to help boost dairy farmers incomes and grow a more sustainable market.

"Switching milk out of commodity production where returns are more volatile to the liquid market with more reliable returns would help to build a stronger, healthier market," says independent consultant Mike Bessey.

Charles Holt, of the Farm Consultancy Group, agrees: "If the campaign is a success and liquid milk consumption is increased there is likely to be a direct effect on dairy farmers incomes."

But getting more subsidised milk provided by schools is just the first step. "If they drink it at school children will ask for milk at home and that should give them a taste for it throughout their lives," says a spokeswoman for the Milk Development Council.

But, to achieve this, Kevin Hawkins, communications director at Safeway, says it is vital to establish a brand image for milk. Then it would be possible for retailers to charge more and pass the increase back to the producer, as is the case for bottled water. "If you differentiate a product you can play tunes with the price," he adds.

There are encouraging signs that the White Stuff Campaign has already helped with this, says the MDC spokeswoman. "At the Royal and Highland Shows we were amazed at the kids enthusiasm for chilled milk." &#42

Not a lotta bottle… only a fifth of children have free milk at school.

Free posters

If you would like to back our campaign School Milk Matters and would like copies of the free fact sheet or posters, contact farmers weekly (020-8652 4911, fax 020-86524005 or e-mail farmers.weekly@rbi.co.uk).