Project aims to secure future for organic milk

A new marketing group has been set up by 20 north-west producers to tap into rising demand for organic milk.

The North West Organic Milk Producers Group says some of its members have been producing organic milk for five years and yet have been forced to sell it at conventional milk prices.

Stuart Martin, a marketing consultant who successfully launched a similar producer group in Scotland, says organic dairy farmers in the north west have seen what the Scottish producers have achieved and want a similar marketing structure.

The group’s milk is currently being sold to Dairy Farmers of Britain and OMSCo.

“A recent phone call from a regional food buyer from the National Health Service revealed that he’d been trying to source an annual supply of 1m litres,” said Mr Martin.

“But progress was hampered because the region’s organic milk producers had no marketing strategy and no central point of contact.”

Susan Woof, the group’s chairwoman who farms at Sedbergh, Cumbria, said bringing cohesion to the organic milk sector in the north west was a priority.

“We’ve been too fragmented in the way we sell our milk and the way it’s marketed and promoted.

We’re now working with the co-ops and launching a PR campaign to help achieve a sustainable future for organic milk production in the region.”

The group, run by a board of farmer directors, has an annual output of around 18m litres.

Each member pays a levy of 0.1p/litre – about £60 a month.

The project is backed by DEFRA, the Soil Association, and the North West Organic Centre at Myerscough College, Preston.

Dairy Farmers of Britain said it was working closely with the north west producer group to help with the promotion of organic milk and milk products.

“Now is the time to invest in new product development and consumer awareness of organic milk,” a DFB spokesman said.

“The market for organic milk is increasing and we want to help maintain that growth and not see the downturn that happened a few years ago.”