WI’s Great Milk Debate to tell public of dairy plight

Consumers are to be told how low milk prices are driving hundreds of dairy farmers out of business – ripping the heart out of rural communities and destroying the fabric of the countryside in the process.

Due to be launched in London on Tuesday (24 April), the Great Milk Debate campaign will see the plight of Britain’s beleaguered dairy farmers highlighted at meetings in village halls, schools and other venues across the country.

The campaign is the brainchild of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (WI), which has 211,000 members. It has teamed up with the NFU to bring farmers, milk processors and retailers face to face with the public.

More than 1000 dairy farmers have gone out of business in the last year alone. But most consumers remain unaware that farmers have received just 17p/litre for an average litre of milk which costs 21p/litre to produce.

The retail milk price is about 51p/litre. But NFU and WI leaders believe shoppers would be willing to pay more if they realised that doing so would support the rural economy and help dairy farming families look after the countryside.


NFU head of communications Anthony Gibson said: “The British consumer holds the future of Britain’s dairy industry in the palm of her hand – even Britain’s biggest supermarket chain cannot afford to ignore the demands of its consumers.”

Some meetings have already taken place. More than 90 people flocked to Hailsham Community Hall, East Sussex, for a milk debate on 11 April, said WI event organiser Hazel Craven.

“Hopefully we brought the plight of dairy farmers to the attention of the general public as well as our members,” she told Farmers Weekly. “We had interest from our local paper as well as a TV production company.”

The NFU is not the first farming organisation to team up with the WI. Over the past year, the WI has worked in partnership with the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), FARM, Farmers For Action, and the Small Farms Association.

The WI campaign has included the distribution of thousands of postcards sent to Tony Blair, calling on the Prime Minister to ensure farmers receive a fair price for their milk.

The Farmers Union of Wales has been supporting the initiative in the run up to the launch.

Union vice-president Eifion Huws said: “With the NFU now on board, we hope that this will help sustain the momentum that has built up over the past 12 months.”

What do you think of this initiative? Are you planning on going to one of the meetings? Is it too little too late? What effect would you like the campaign to have?

Have your say on the
FWi Great Milk Debate forum.