15 October 1999
Thumbs-up for milk ads levy

By Johann Tasker

DAIRY farmers are set to vote in favour of a national milk advertising campaign, according to a Farmers Weekly survey on the eve of the poll.

But the government could still overrule the campaign unless ministers are convinced that enough farmers have returned official voting forms to MAFF.

Farmers have until today (Friday) to tell MAFF whether they are willing to pay an extra 0.03ppl levy on the milk they sell to fund a promotional drive.

More than 60% of producers could vote in favour of the campaign, according to the Farmers Weekly survey, conducted over the past week.

Almost two-thirds of producers who responded to the survey in last weeks magazine and on the FWi website said that milk should be advertised regardless of its origin or brand.

If the go-ahead for a campaign is granted, an average farmer with 100 cows would pay about £130 a year to fund £7million-worth of milk advertisements.

Many producers feel the money would be a small price to pay in an attempt to secure a more profitable market for farmers.

Richard Haslam, from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, said retail milk sales had to increase by only 5% to boost the price paid to producers.

“My only fear is I hope the money is spent on good-quality advertising.”

But more than one in three producers remain vehemently opposed to a promotional campaign, saying that farmers could ill-afford to fund it.

Milk prices have plummeted by about 25% over the past three years and many producers are losing money by selling milk at about 17ppl.

Some farmers doubt whether any extra sales generated by an advertising campaign would filter back to the farm-gate in the form of higher milk prices.

Martin Harvey, from Newlyn East, Cornwall, said: “The dairy industry is in far better financial shape to fund any advertising campaign and they will be the first to benefit from increased sales.”

Pembrokeshire producer David Kenniford said he was in favour of milk advertising – but only if dairy processors helped farmers fund the campaign.

“The trade contribution should be the same or I am not willing to pay,” he said.

Dairy companies have pledged to match the money donated by farmers. Farm minister Nick Brown must now decide whether to endorse the campaign.

Mr Brown has said that a substantial number of dairy farmers must show their support for the proposal before he can give the go-ahead for advertising.

Although it is increasingly clear that most producers favour a campaign, Mr Brown could still veto a promotional drive if he feels not enough farmers voted.