Speech on UK Dairy

Here is a full transcript and video link of my speech which I made in the Westminster Hall debate on UK Dairy last Wednesday: https://t.co/kePuRm4HUC     

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton:

"It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate, Ms Ryan. I thank the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) for securing this debate and keeping a spotlight on dairy prices. May I offer him a little solace? I think a previous Minister, David Heath, from his party, was a very good agriculture Minister. I want to put that on the record. We may not have agreed on politics, especially in our younger days on Somerset County Council, but I will not go into that.

 Food and farming is a £100 billion industry. One in eight jobs are in food and farming, so it really needs to be taken seriously. Dairy farming is the backbone of most livestock agriculture. It has a knock-on effect on the beef industry because most of the beef industry comes from dairy. When a lot of cull cows come on to the market because of the poor price of milk, the price of beef is depressed as well, so the whole thing has a knock-on effect.

 The situation is not simple. We have had a large over-supply of milk throughout the world, but New Zealand has now dropped production by 5%, which must be good news. We can see a knock-on effect across the world of an approximately 2% increase in dairy trade year on year, so if we can start to reduce production and increase the volume, we will get better prices internationally. In the meantime, we must concentrate ​on two fronts in particular. One is making sure that this country can get the best market possible for milk. We need to work with the retailers and say to them, 'Not only offer a good price on liquid milk, but a good price on processed milk'.

 Tesco and others are stepping up to the plate. As I have said before, I used to want to be able indiscriminately to shoot a retailer a day and feel much better, but I cannot actually do that because there are some good retailers out there. When supermarkets put in milk as a loss leader for perhaps 89p, we must make sure that they fund that themselves and are not funded by the processor and the farmer. I do not like milk as a loss leader because it downgrades the value of milk. All of us in this room would stand up and say that our produce from our county is the very best in the country—there is no doubt Devon’s is the best—but I say to the Minister that we have to get country of origin labelling. We have to make sure that it is not only country of origin but regional labelling so that we can compete with one another on cheese, on yoghurt and on dairy products in total. That is absolutely key to the argument, so let us make sure that Government procures everything that is British as well, and let us make sure that the health service and the schools that provide school milk serve up things that are British. I know the Government have done a lot of work on that, but we need to do even more.

 On the single farm payment, let us ensure we do not have the debacle that we have had this past year where we still have 10% of farmers waiting to receive their payments. I welcome the fact that the Rural Payments Agency has, perhaps slightly belatedly, said that the last 10% will get at least 50% of their payment by the end of the month. This is very important. This is money the Government can actually produce and they can make sure that it gets through.

 We have to make sure that we get export markets right. China wants more milk powder. China has decided to allow the country to produce more children and that is why there is a big market for baby milk powder. That is key. We have to make sure we have the processors and everything in place to take that up so that we have either Chinese money or European investment money. Let us get this industry moving so that we are able to get the best price for our farmers."