NFU19: Improving the dairy environment with new, better relationships

Michael Oakes - NFU19_61129

Building relationships and increasing consumer understanding of the dairy sector is key for the future of dairy farming. The UK dairy market continues to support dairy products, with 98% of customers consuming dairy but the dairy session at NFU Conference recognised how the industry might need to adapt to address the growing noise around welfare and environmental standards.

NFU Dairy Board Chairman Michael Oakes opened by explaining how the NFU has been pushing for support around environmental policy and regulation on contracts. 

Michael Oakes - NFU19_61166
Pictured above: Dairy Board Chairman Michael Oakes. 

Farmers were also made aware of the importance of improving the farmer-processor relationship. The NFU has been calling for better contract terms as part of Defra’s consultation on the future regulation under the Common Market Organisation. NFU Chief Legal Adviser Nina Winter explained the detail surrounding the latest contract situation and how the organisation was pleased that provisions have been drafted within the Agriculture Bill that could provide clarity across the supply chain. This is all part of the work the NFU has been carrying out on behalf of members, and the panel heard from many at the dairy session. Ms Winter said: “Contracts in other spheres are regulated. When you go into a shop, the law gives you a set of statutory rights that the retailer cannot take away. You don’t have bargaining power in a shop. The law gives you statutory rights.

“Dairy contracts have been regulated in Spain under CMO provisions. It’s actually been really positive. Even processors that didn’t want the contracts now wax lyrical about them. In the EU the tide is turning towards regulation of farmers contracts. Lawmakers have unfair contract terms in their sites.”

The AHDB’s Head of Crops and Dairy Marketing Rebecca Miah broke down the organisation’s strategy around the Department of Dairy Related Scrumptious Affairs. She explained how reduction in dairy consumption is partially affected by the public having less of dairy hosts such as cereal, milk and coffee. She also acknowledged that until recently, dairy was not being marketed, and said: “Within our sectors, our processors spend the most on marketing their products, such as a branded yoghurt or cheese, but when they spoke about it they weren’t talking about dairy. Instead, it was the industry’s detractors that used the word ‘dairy’ and no one was putting forward the positive elements of dairy.”

Michael Oakes, Dairy Board Chairman, NFU
Nina Winter, Chief Legal Adviser, NFU
Susie Stannard, Senior Consumer Insight Analyst, AHDB
Rebecca Miah, Senior Consumer Marketing Communications Manager, AHDB
Ruth Edge, Acting Chief Dairy Adviser, NFU
Chaired by Melanie Squires, South West Regional Director, NFU

Since launching in 2018, the Department of Dairy Related Scrumptious Affairs has changed this. The PR campaign has reached 574 million and has had 100% positive sentiment. The on-demand video adverts have been watched 5.3 million and people who have viewed them have been watching until the end of the video rather than skipping until the end of the advert, with 1.9% above the average have watched the full clips.

NFU members heard from AHDB Senior Consumer Insight Analyst Susie Stannard, who provided an overview of how the market is still positive for dairy, but she shared some customer expectations around welfare standards. Ms Stannard said: “Dairy products have a penetration rate of more than 98%, which is technically higher than toilet paper.”

Ruth Edge - NFU19_61167
Pictured above: Ruth Edge, acting chief dairy adviser

But farmers were also clear that the reduction of emissions of dairy farms must take place alongside productive and profitable farming across the UK’s variety of farms. To do this, the NFU has been calling for a range of options to ensure a one-size-fits-all approach is avoided as part of the Clean Air Strategy consultation, and the dairy team’s Ruth Edge explained how they had been meeting with Defra to set appropriate targets and find the best solutions to keep the sector sustainable.

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