Dairy farmers saw the price of their milk fall dramatically throughout 2014, and the start of 2015 shows no upturn in their fortunes, with three of Britain’s four main dairy processors recently cutting the price they pay to farmers.
The price cuts have been blamed on a supermarket price war with several of the main supermarkets now charging just 89p for 4 pints of milk. On top of this price war, dairy farmers have been affected by growing farm costs, and a ban on imports to Russia which has led to a glut of dairy produce.
Continuous price cuts are making dairy farming an unsustainable business for many farmers and are likely to have an irreversible effect on the British dairy industry. Back in 2012, when milk prices were at crisis levels, the number of registered dairy farmers was 10,851. That number has in recent weeks dipped below 10,000 for the first time ever, and further price cuts are likely to see many more farmers go out of business.
Threats to the industry are not just a problem for the farming community but for every member of the public that uses dairy produce.
Get involved – How you can support British dairy farmers
Consumers have real power to bring about change, and buying British dairy is a great way to support dairy farmers. Consumer action in 2012 helped prompt many retailers to take action. Here are some tips to help you back British dairy:
- Look out for the Red Tractor logo, a sign that the product is high quality, and meets strict environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards while being produced in the UK.
- Keep in mind that supermarkets are only one part of the retail sector. High street coffee shops and food outlets are all dairy customers; why not ask about their policies and how they ensure the produce they stock returns a fair price to farmers before you buy.
- Remember, milk is just part of the dairy market. Half of the milk produced by British farmers goes on sale as liquid milk, meaning that the other half goes into butter, cheese, yoghurts, desserts etc. So make sure all your dairy products are British.
96% of us consume fresh milk but few of us recognise its real value. By backing British farmers we can ensure that the British dairy industry remains strong and that we can access high quality, high welfare, locally produced dairy for years to come.