MPs inquiry into milk price crisis launches

Politicians have launched an inquiry into this year’s crash in farmgate milk prices.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee has asked anyone involved in the dairy sector to send in their experiences and opinions.

In a letter to the committee, Defra secretary Liz Truss explained the government would not become involved in discussions over prices but it would encourage shoppers to buy British and help open export markets.

See also: More heavy milk price cuts for First Milk farmers

Efra committee chairman Anne McIntosh MP said the committee was interested in ways to safeguard the UK dairy industry during a global downturn.

“Our committee has taken a close interest in the dairy industry, publishing a report in 2011 with a series of recommendations for government action,” she said.

“The secretary of state’s letter reports that significant action has been taken to implement changes since then, but we wish to investigate a number of areas where further action could be taken.”

The committee wants written submissions on:

  • The impact of volatile prices on farmers

  • The effectiveness of government’s support for dairy

  • What the EU has done to address supplies outstripping demand

  • How the Groceries Code Adjudicator helps milk producers

  • What can be done to protect farmers in the future

Evidence can be sent in through the committee website by Tuesday 18 November.

NFU chief dairy adviser Sian Davies said the union was pleased to see the government was taking the dairy situation seriously.

“We will submit evidence to the inquiry on all topics requested in support of all our dairy members,” she said.

“It is vital that we continue to see tools made available to farmers to manage market volatility, as well as government support of British agriculture and increasingly fair and transparent supply chain practices.”

The Efra committee’s 2011 report into the dairy sector called on the government to make sure farmers were offered detailed, transparent milk contracts.

This laid the ground for the dairy industry’s voluntary code of practice, set up after the 2012 crisis.

The report also welcomed the abolition of EU milk quotas, due to take place in April, and supported the idea of farmers setting up producer organisations to negotiate prices on their behalf.