The UK dairy industry

The UK dairy industry has faced a challenging time over the past decade. The NFU produced a strategy document called Compete to Grow which was designed to ensure the survival of the milk industry and to make sure that UK farmers are able to compete with their foreign counterparts. The Compete to Grow document, launched by the then Chairman of the NFU Dairy Board, Mansel Raymond, looked at how dairy farmers, milk buyers and the wider industry could all work together to improve production allowing the UK to meet the food production challenges of the 21st century. Mr Raymond saw this as a way of uniting dairy farmers, processors and buyers in working towards a common goal.

Farmer efficiency

The global population is growing, with the population widely estimated to reach nine billion people by 2050. In order to feed everyone, farming needs to be continually improving both efficiency and production standards to meet these challenges. And the milk industry in the UK must grow with increased efficiency and investment too. Mr Raymond said that there are huge opportunities for growth in the milk industry globally and that UK farmers need to invest in state of the art machinery and processes to meet these demands. This growth is not just needed in milk production but in the production of other dairy related products as a whole.

UK dairy industry milk buyers

It is not just the farmers who can play a part in the growth of the milk industry, but milk buyers too. Compete to Grow recommended that UK milk buyers offered supply contracts which are in line with Dairy Industry Best Codes of Practice. Practically, this means that farmers must believe and trust that they will be rewarded suitably for the increase in investment that they will be required to make. If they don’t believe that they will be treated fairly there is no incentive for farmers to burden themselves with high levels of debt for no reward. Mr Raymond said that supply chain margins needed to be distributed more fairly so that farmers will also gain some assistance with investment financing.

The Dairy industry working together

Competing with other countries for a share of the burgeoning milk market is only possible if all parts of the supply chain look at improving efficiency and effectiveness. It is not just down to the farmers. The report also stressed that the Red Tractor Assurance Dairy Scheme should be developed and promoted to ensure its relevance to the modern dairy consumer as well as being appropriate for the UK dairy industry as a whole.

Rob Harrison, now Chairman of the NFU Dairy Board, said at the time that the principles of the Compete to Grow document are there to support the Dairy 2020 initiative which sets out a vision for the dairy industry going forward. He also said that the UK dairy industry needs to thrive in order to ensure that it gives opportunities for businesses within the wider sector.