Defra Questions

During Questions to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Neil Parish MP welcomed introductions of new powers for the Groceries Code Adjudicator and called for more to be done to ensure retailers treat dairy farmers fairly. Neil is also chairman of the Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group.

 

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I very much welcome the Government laying the statutory instrument to enable the Groceries Code Adjudicator to issue fines. Dairy farmers in my constituency across the Blackdown hills and Exmoor are now producing milk well below the cost of production. Many big retailers are paying a good price for milk, but are keeping cheese prices artificially low, especially processed cheese. Will Ministers and the Secretary of State put real pressure on retailers to be fair to farmers? At the moment, they are using dairy products as loss leaders and driving the price down.

 

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Elizabeth Truss): I understand that dairy farmers are in a very difficult position. We have very low prices. We expect prices to improve, but clearly there are severe issues for our dairy industry. We are doing all we can, working with HMRC and the RPA on cash-flow issues, to help in the short term. He is absolutely right: there is a big opportunity with our supermarkets. We meet the supermarkets regularly to discuss these issues and to ensure that we have proper British labelling. It is really important that, when consumers go into supermarkets, they can see whether a product is from Britain and is sourced from British milk.

 

Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 29 January 2015, c994)