Blog: Dean BestMilk farmers accuse UK of Olympics "hypocrisy"

Dean Best | 25 July 2012

As the UK basks in the sunshine and in the glow of anticipation at the Olympics, the mood in the country's dairy industry remains sour. And a leading farmers group has taken aim at the Government's "hypocrisy" over the Games.

UK farmers have held a series of protests and blockades at dairy processing and retail distribution sites in recent days to display their anger at planned cuts to the price of milk.

There has been some talk of targeting the Olympics but, speaking to just-food, Farmers for Action chairman David Handley said his organisation would not target the Games specifically. He did, however, say there could be disruption to supplies during the event if the dairy industry did not reverse the cuts to the price of milk, which are planned for 1 August - and he also criticised the Government for using the Olympics to highlight the UK countryside, while not protecting farmers.

"The Olympics is coming very close. If we start cutting milk supply now, it's going to have an effect. We are not going to take direct action against the Olympic Games. It's a marvellous event for this country and will have knock-on benefits for the farming industry," Handley said.

However, he added: "At the end of the day, the opening ceremony of these Games is going to be promoting by the government what the UK countryside has to offer. I think it's hypocrisy. All they're doing is trying to pull the wool over people's eyes. Whilst we maintain the countryside and keep it to the standard it is, they are prepared to let corporate retailers and foodservice industry giants to wipe us off the face of the earth. Maybe that story needs to be told at the beginning of the Olympics and I'm sure we'll probably try and do it."

Protests have continued this week despite recent moves from some retailers to increase prices and processors and farmers strike a draft deal on a code of practice for the industry. Handley said the protests would continue until the planned 1 August cuts are rescinded.

The UK government is today holding more talks with retailers on the future of the dairy sector but Handley said the coalition could set an example on the issue.

"Why doesn't the Government come out and make a statement?," he argued. "All their procurement off UK dairy farmers will be procured at a cost of production figure. That would set the lead."



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