STAFFORD and Stone’s MPs have highlighted the challenges and export opportunities facing the area’s dairy farmers during a Parliamentary debate.
Both Jeremy Lefroy and Bill Cash took part in Thursday’s debate on the dairy industry, which comes in the wake of milk prices hitting the headlines once more.
At Thursday’s debate Mr Lefroy told fellow MPs of the importance of the dairy industry to the Stafford constituency, describing Staffordshire as “one of the UK’s leading dairy counties.”
And Mr Cash spoke on the “enormous export opportunities” for dairy farmers.
“I have just come back from India, from where people will shortly be coming to see Staffordshire dairy farmers precisely to try to develop joint ventures. Is that not a great opportunity?”, he said.
Mr Lefroy added: “The previous (Agriculture) Minister, Mr Paice, was in China on a trade mission and saw no British dairy products, despite there being many from the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and so on.
"We must do more, and the industry must do better.” Speaking on Staffordshire’s dairy farms he said: “Some 70 trades and suppliers, possibly more, are estimated to depend on each 400-acre dairy farm.
“Another almost unique feature is that Staffordshire has kept its county farms, which were set up after the First World War. Half of Staffordshire’s county farms, some 50 of them, are in my constituency.
“Last Friday I attended a meeting at Church farm, Coppenhall, at the invitation of the Madders family, with many dairy farmers and the National Farmers Union.
"We discussed the problems they face and the first area is milk prices and fair treatment. The common refrain was, ‘give us the highs in prices and we’ll take the lows.”
“The time is right for fair prices. I worked for many years in the coffee
industry, in which I saw the impact of fair trade and fair prices.
“I would like to see a similar approach in the dairy industry. The second vital area is marketing."
"Many of my constituents are already taking up the challenge of adding value - Bertelin Farmhouse Cheese in Ellenhall, for example - but there is more potential.
“I have recently had to start buying lactose-free milk, for which there is a huge market in the UK, yet the milk I buy is made in Denmark by Arla.”
Last week Robert Wiseman and Muller dairies announced that the milk price paid to farmers directly operating contracts with them was to increase to 29p per litre from October 15.
The Co-operative will increase the price it pays on milk within The Cooperative Dairy Group (CDG) to a total price of 30p per litre as of October 1.