The UK dairy industry is nearing an agreement on a voluntary code of best practice that would govern relationships down the supply chain, it emerged today (11 July).

Addressing farmers at a dairy summit organised by farming groups this afternoon, UK minister for agriculture Jim Paice revealed an agreement on the controversial code was “tantalisingly” close. “I have met with both sides. We are tantalisingly close to an agreement on a voluntary code. Both sides have moved a very long way,” he said.

“I am going to knock some heads together,” Paice added, insisting a deal would be pushed through imminently.

Paice made it clear the UK government favours a voluntary approach to either legislation or the possibility of compulsory contracts handed down from a European level.

The principle of establishing a voluntary code has received the backing of some of the country’s largest dairy processors.

A spokesperson for Robert Wiseman Dairies told just-food today the firm was supportive of attempts to reach a “satisfactory agreement”.

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“The code of practice is something that has been under discussion for quite sometime and we are fully behind Dairy UK who are negotiating on behalf of the processing sector,” the spokesperson said.

However, farmer-representatives appear more sceptical about whether a voluntary code will have the necessary clout to increase transparency and rebalance power in the dairy supply chain.

“The dairy sector needs a permanent fix. It needs a longer-term solution to the imbalance of power… we need the Dairy Contracts Act of 2013. In the meantime, the best and final compromise is a voluntary code of best practice,” NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond told his audience at the Dairy Summit in London.