‘Moosings’ on milk

Lord Trees

Some years ago a prominent politician was castigated for not knowing the price of milk. It meant he was out of touch with everyday matters. In actual fact, as a shopper, I know that knowing the price of milk is not that easy – is it organic, skimmed, semi-skimmed, full-cream, half litre, one litre, two litres, etc.? That aside the price of milk or rather the price that farmers are getting, is once more in the news.

There is no doubt dairy farmers receive a lot of sympathy from the public and quite rightly so. Their job is relentlessly tough, requiring long working hours, 365 days a year, with no respite. But as with many things, the issue is more complex than it may first appear. The efficiency of production of dairy farms varies quite markedly – I am told on good authority that the cost of production varies by as much as about 12p per litre (that in the context of a market price of around 26p per litre currently). This means that some farmers are able to operate profitably, whilst others are struggling. It also means that ‘the cost of production’ is not a uniform figure across the UK. Of course, the production of a vital commodity like milk has significance beyond market price – there are the important issues of food security and stewardship of the countryside which should influence purely commercial considerations.

The current situation is a product of the convergence of several adverse events creating volatility in global markets, notably the reduction in purchasing of milk for dried milk by China, which has stockpiled supplies and is compounded by the effect of Russian sanctions, which has meant that continental processed dairy products that historically were destined for Russia are now on the open market. Notwithstanding these current financial challenges, the longer term outlook for the dairy industry is generally regarded to be good.

So what can be done to help our dairy farmers? Well firstly we can buy our milk from supermarkets (such as Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, Tesco, and Waitrose) which have got agreements in place to provide a fair price to our farmers with a degree of forward security of that price.  This should help to force other supermarkets to do likewise. Secondly, we can ensure in purchasing processed dairy products such as butter and cheese, that they are produced using British milk – look for signs like the Red Tractor label. To provide further protection, I asked in the Lords chamber on the 15th of January 2014 that the Government consider extending the protection of the Groceries Code to dairy farmers. This Code was introduced by Act of Parliament in 2013 with the very purpose of protecting suppliers from unfair contracts forced upon them by large supermarkets. Unfortunately, it only applies to those who directly supply supermarkets; since most dairy farmers do not directly supermarkets they are not protected by the Groceries Code. The Minister in his reply said that the Government had considered this issue and that a review of the matter was due in 2016. Let us hope this is not too late for some of our hard pressed dairy farmers.

3 comments for “‘Moosings’ on milk

  1. Croft
    28/01/2015 at 1:26 pm

    “Well firstly we can buy our milk from supermarkets (such as Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, Tesco, and Waitrose)”

    If the price really varies by 12p how can we tell if they are paying a fair price. If they are paying more but to less efficient/more expensive producers the margins are not so clear….

  2. Bill Jones
    29/01/2015 at 2:57 pm

    This is the nub of the matter:

    “know that knowing the price of milk is not that easy – is it organic, skimmed, semi-skimmed, full-cream, half litre, one litre, two litres, etc.? That aside the price of milk or rather the price that farmers are getting, is once more in the news.”

    The meaning of fair price is totally unknowable, given the vast packaging deceit that ALL the food retailers indulge in, to make
    milk one of their most profitable products.

    Otherwise the Lord has got the facts right.

    Promoting Dairy farm dairies to serve city/town locations 60miles away from the farm home territory would assist in the creation of more dairy farm dairy consortia. As it is, those dairy farmers who do not have an obvious local market, do not have the opportunity to set up milk rounds to th various supermarket retailers in the area, or even to the domestic door step.

    There are Dairy Farm Dairies in nearly every county, sometimes two or three, but market research for those, and government support for the creation of Dairy farm dairy groups needs to
    concentrate on the more remote dairy farms.

    The DFD prepares and “bottles”(canisterizes) its own milk, which one farm on its own could not afford to do. Three or four together can do it, and do, do it.

    That should be extended to the more remote farms to supply
    city/town locations at a greater distance, or even farms which are not so very close together to do their own canisterizing
    in a non-obviously wise logistical way.

    Government sponsored research for more dairy farm dairies to get the poper price for their product, by eliminating the supermarket cartel. Logistics is not a discipline that comes naturally to the dairyman.

  3. MilesJSD
    30/01/2015 at 10:29 pm

    I divide the 25% timeframed Workplace [where the milk is produced and retailed by the Worker]
    from the 75% timeframed Lifeplace [i.e. at the human-stomach where the milk is consumed by the Liver] –

    betwixt the two, there is a ‘top-down’ one-way adversarial and competitive “Win-Lose” Constitution, Legislation, Judiciary, and Marketplace;

    such that whatever the physical & moral and longest-term sustainworthiness of the “Liver”,
    ‘competitive economic marketism’ has resulted in absolutely unnecessary and ‘blind’ destructivity
    – to this very extent that Lord Trees is indicating,
    the “biting off of the hand that feeds us”.
    Consider please the longer-term Lifeplace and Governance timeframes,
    in say decades and centuries [in the case of bio-lifesupports planning such as dairy-milk-farming]
    and consider therein the drowning-out of cooperatively participative ‘No-Lose’ problem solving methodology,
    by this literally constitution-dictated ‘Win-Lose’ of false “economic market competitivity” and complicitously thereto of the figmental “democratic global village community”.

    Surely it would be more longest-term civilisation efficient, and both Earth-1 and future Earth-2 supportive, to allot the initial and major Planning and Problem-Solving timeframes to “No Lose” round-table Needs & Hows planning and legislation-writing meetings ?

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