Asda, Morrisons and The Co-operative Group will today (25 July) hold talks with the UK government to discuss the future of the country’s dairy sectors – as farmers protests over milk prices continue.
UK farming minister Jim Paice will meet the three retailers, which have faced criticism from farmers over the price they pay for milk.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said Paice would meet the retailers – and speak to discounter Iceland Foods – to “discuss how they can ensure the long term sustainability of the dairy industry”.
The meetings follow talks yesterday with discount retailer Aldi and industry association The Food and Drink Federation.
Earlier this week, the Government brokered an agreement between the National Farmers Union and Dairy UK, which represents processors in the country, on a voluntary code of practice to govern relations in the sector.
The NFU said the initial agreement for a code struck this afternoon “gave some hope” for the long-term future of the sector.
However, the NFU and the Farmers for Action group have argued it does not solve the immediate problems for farmers, which have seen the country’s largest processors plan price cuts from 1 August. Farmers for Action continue to hold protests in a bid to get processors including Robert Wiseman Dairies to reverse the planned cuts and to force retailers to increase what they pay.
Paice said the code would “make contracts between farmers and milk processors fairer and more transparent”. However, he argued there needed to be “real change across the industry”.
He said: “As things stand dairy farmers are going to seriously struggle in the future. That’s why I’m going to be sitting down with retailers and manufacturers to emphasise just how crucial it is to take a more long term approach. The conversation will focus on issues such as the effects of their extremely competitive deals on the rest of the supply chain, and what could be done better to source and support British produce.”