23 June 1995

Strang campaign seeks to save doorstep milk

A CAMPAIGN to save doorstep deliveries of milk has been launched by shadow farm minister Gavin Strang.

He blamed the decline in doorstep sales of milk on a rigged market created by the government. "There is not a free market in milk because rigid milk production quotas prevent dairy farmers producing more milk in response to higher prices. In a free market, production rises and prices come down," he said.

Dr Strang urged the government to "abandon its negative stance towards the doorstep delivery service". The first step should be to scrap a new tax of £35 on electric milk floats, due to take effect on July 1, he said.

But MAFF ruled this out. An official said the average milk round sold about 600 pints a day. Removing the tax would save only 0.02p/pt, which MAFF believed would have no effect on halting the decline in deliveries.

Dr Strang also suggested that some CAP money should be redirected to support the doorstep delivery service. This should take the form of a subsidy on glass returnable bottles, which would reduce the price of the doorstep pinta, he said.

Andrew Dare, Milk Marque chief executive, blamed the declining doorstep sales on supermarkets which sold milk at cost-price, or below, to entice shoppers into their stores.

Mr Dare, however, endorsed Dr Strangs call for government help for the doorstep industry. And he added that doorstep sales would drop from a current market share of 44% to below 25% if something was not done quickly to narrow the gap between doorstep and supermarket prices.

But a MAFF official said the governments position was not to interfere with consumer choice, or supermarket pricing.

Doorstep delivery had been in decline for some years, but the service would continue for as long as the consumer demanded it, she added.