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From the editor: Does dairying want or need fundamental change?

It has been a long held truth that farmers bear too much of the risk, and not enough of the reward, in a food supply chain stacked against them.

It is a catch-22 scenario in which the most important players in the system, the food producers, are those most vulnerable to shifting markets or price manoeuvring.

 

Dairy has been a prime showcase for this imbalance for many years, since the end of the Milk Marketing Board in fact, with the ever-changing price dynamics of the market leading to tens of thousands quitting the sector over the past 25 years.

 

Therefore, to say there needs to be a greater element of fairness for farmers in this sector is obvious. How you get to that place, however, is another thing entirely, as evidenced by the spat around the dairy industry this week.


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The UK-wide consultation into dairy sector supply chain issues closed this week, with unions highlighting discretionary pricing, improving farmer representation and an end to one-sided contract terms as key areas of focus. Their suggestions, however, have been queried by leading analysts.

 

Both sides have strong cases to make, but whether the recommendations of the unions have any sway at governmental level will be something we see later in the year. It is also unclear whether, like so many other commissions, consultations or reviews, any change can actually be driven into the system.

 

Look at the Trade and Agriculture Commission, which is shaping up to be a potential lame duck, with some fearing it will have little or no sway on future policy will have a huge impact on agriculture.

 

And we have been here before with the Groceries Code Adjudicator, a position many have slammed for lacking teeth and therefore having no real influence on the supply chain.

 

And, fundamentally, will the majority of suppliers within the dairy sector want change? While many have faded away over the years, there are scores more who have built successful businesses and may not want a change to the status quo.

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