The group will focus on supporting the development of a sustainable and profitable dairy supply chain and will debate key issues for the industry.
Under the chairmanship of food and farming champion Neil Parish MP, the group will undertake a comprehensive work programme including an inquiry in November this year into the ‘sustainable competitiveness of the industry in the UK’.

The group will also visit a dairy farm and processing plant in December where it will be briefed on the industry’s ‘Farm to Fork’ approach and be given a demonstration of latest dairy technology and developments on animal health and welfare.

The group held its first meeting at the House of Commons today and outlined its work programme. Dairy UK and The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) will provide the secretariat for the group which has attracted parliamentarians from across the UK.

Neil Parish MP for Tiverton and Honiton said: {pull-quote}“The dairy sector is a great British industry which employs several thousands of people and produces a tremendous array of nutritious food. It is right that this contribution to the nation’s health and economy is recognised by parliament and that all political parties are fully up to speed with developments within the dairy industry. We have an extensive programme of work and I am delighted that so many parliamentarians have embraced the establishment of this group so enthusiastically.”

Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of Dairy UK, said: “The establishment of an APPG on dairy is a step change in the recognition of the importance of the industry and the wide range of safe, wholesome and nutritious foods it produces. We want to improve the understanding of the issues and challenges dairy encounters through active engagement and unprecedented dialogue between members of the APPG, the dairy industry and independent contributors. This will be in the interest of industry as it continues to serve the needs of consumers across the UK.”

Nick Everington, chief executive of RABDF, said: “RABDF is very supportive of the Dairy APPG. It will provide the industry with direct access to MPs interested in the dairy sector to discuss immediate issues, as well as those for the long-term benefit of British dairy producers. The future has to be farmers working closely with processors in order ensure they match their requirements.”

{in-brief} The terms of reference for the All-Party Parliamentary Group are:

  1. Support and make recommendations for the development of a sustainable and profitable dairy industry in the UK
  2. Study the current state and prospects of the dairy industry through inquiries on the sustainable development of the sector
  3. Gain a better understanding of the UK dairy industry through visits to dairy farms, dairy processing plants and other dairy supply chain sites
  4. Undertake any other activity if and when relevant.

In other dairy news the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) dairy board chairman Rob Harrison has been working with European farmer colleagues to convince the European Commission to include the UK’s cheese sector in new private storage packages and has welcomed an extension of European promotional budgets for dairy products.

Speaking after the NFU’s national dairy board meeting, Mr Harrison said it was vital he, and his colleagues at farming union Copa Cogeca, were given the opportunity to raise concerns over recent market volatility in the global dairy market, and took the opportunity to highlight ongoing work by the NFU to minimise the impacts of recent farm gate price cuts.

“The NFU and Copa lobbied hard for cheese, not limited to protected geographical designations, to be included in the European Commission private storage aid package,” said Mr Harrison following yesterday’s meeting.

“I am pleased that we have been successful, which we hope will restore some confidence to processors, with the option to store, rather than having to sell cheese, powdered milk and butter into distressed markets in the short term. However we do recognise that placing these products into storage presents potential future problems when they do inevitably hit the market.

“The NFU has been calling on the Commission and Defra to explore viable options, including the promotion of European and British dairy products in export and domestic markets, to soften the impact of releasing stored dairy products.

“News that the Commission have now extended European promotional budgets for dairy products has been welcomed by the NFU.”

But he added that there was more work to be done to secure the short and long-term future of the dairy industry in this country.

“While increases in global production, falling global commodity prices and the situation in Russia are beyond the control of the NFU, we will be working tirelessly in Brussels and Westminster to minimise their impacts on British dairy farmers’ businesses. We will continue to work with DairyCo and other stakeholders to get relevant and timely market information to farmers. It is vital that we explore all avenues at our disposal at such a crucial time for our industry.”
The European Commission has committed to providing an additional €30m for promotion programmes starting in 2015. This is to support the need to create potential new sales outlets for products affected by the Russian ban. As these schemes are co-funded, this change is likely to mean an additional €60m for promotion measures.