RABDF calls for AHDB Dairy levy diversion to The Dairy Council

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers has called for AHDB Dairy levy to be diverted to product protection and health professional education.

“Diverting up to 15% of AHDB Dairy’s £7.68m budget to The Dairy Council will enable the organisation to provide sound scientific evidence on the benefits of dairy as a high quality, high value nutritional product to UK health professionals and the Department of Health, at a time when Government has no coherent policy on promoting milk and dairy products,” RABDF chairman, Ian Macalpine told a media briefing at the Livestock Event on Wednesday 8 July.

“£1.15m of levy funding would make a significant difference to The Dairy Council’s budget. It currently receives just over £200,000 from AHDB Dairy,” he said. “While we acknowledge AHDB Dairy’s current promotional work in this field, the proposed additional funding to The Dairy Council would be for work in human nutrition which is a different arena. 

“Milk is one of the most nutritionally complete foods available whilst dairy products offer a balanced nutrient package, yet in spite of all modern scientific evidence, the Department of Health continues to openly state that dairy products pose health dangers in terms of saturated fat and salt. I find this somewhat incongruous - at the same time Defra is committed to an industry growth strategy whilst UKTI is investing in promoting dairy exports.

“Whilst now is not the right time for generic promotion, I firmly believe we have to arrest Government’s current take on not being happy about its own population consuming dairy. Quite clearly, we need to provide the Department of Health and MPs with more information and scientific evidence to develop a coherent strategy. Only when we have persuaded consumers that dairy products are beneficial to their diet can we then expect them to buy British and pay a realistic price which reflects their domestic market value, not their commodity status. In turn, that realistic price should provide fair remuneration for all concerned in the supply chain.   

“Furthermore discounting dairy has to stop,” he said. “Last month’s Mintel report, 'Added Value in Dairy Drinks, Milk and Cream UK 2015' which concluded that consumers are prepared to pay £1.28 for the four-pint poly that is usually retailing at between 89p and £1.00. We have no evidence whatsoever that discounted milk attracts a higher volume of sales.”

Mr Macalpine argued some supermarkets with aligned contracts were paying a premium price of up to 33ppl. “There are concerns about the price differentials between the haves and have nots, however, rather than wondering when Tesco will tire of paying more than its competitors I think we should be asking the question why the competitors aren’t paying as much as Tesco. Tesco is at a disadvantage not because it is paying too much but because their competitors are paying too little.”  

Mr Macalpine went on to call for immediate Government action to its TB strategy. “TB is continuing to ravage our industry; nine million cattle were tested for TB last year, while 4,692 new outbreaks were confirmed of which an estimated 50% are attributed to badgers in TB hotspots,” he said. “This government was re-elected committing itself to tackling TB and continuing with its 25 year eradication strategy.

“However, Defra’s silence is deafening and progress is snail pace. We have farmers in the affected areas desperate and ready to extend the badger cull and farmers in the clean area ready to take on post movement testing of cattle, to keep their area clean, for which we have been asking for nearly two years. 

“RABDF, together with other livestock organisations and vets, put a proposal to Government yesterday on how to handle animal health. This involves all working together and having the commitment to the 25 year TB eradication plan. If the strategy has any chance of success then swift and decisive action needs to be taken in the early years.”