Farming unions welcome new Dairy Code of Conduct

Ministers announce plans for a fairer dairy supply chain, after landmark 12-week consultation.

The four UK farming unions have welcomed news of a Dairy Code of Conduct, hailing it “a huge step in the right direction”.

Ministers announced yesterday (3rd February) that the UK government will work closely with the Devolved Administrations to develop a new statutory code of conduct to increase fairness in the supply chain and help farmers become more competitive.

The move follows a consultation launched in June last year, which revealed new regulations were needed to ensure certain standards for contracts, between those producing and buying milk for processing.

Farming unions say putting a new Dairy Code of Conduct into legislation will provide a more effective dairy supply chain, in which farmers and processors can work together to ensure fairer and equitable terms for all dairy farmers, while delivering great value dairy products for consumers.

The new code will seek to provide a guiding framework, establishing minimum standards and allowing businesses to adapt contracts to their individual circumstances. Distinctive circumstances in Northern Ireland will also need to be reflected in the regulations, and the government said this will be considered.

In a joint statement, dairy farmer representatives of the four farming unions said: “For too long, dairy farmers have borne far too much of the risk in the dairy supply chain and inappropriate contract terms are often at the root of the problems. Contracts have been weighted too heavily in favour of the milk buyer who can change terms and pricing mechanisms, and even introduce price cuts without negotiation, while locking farmers into changes without recourse.

“The UK farming unions have been fighting for years to change the structure of how the dairy sector operates. We want more sustainable, progressive and equitable relationships between farmers and processors, so we can collectively tackle the issues we face. This is all the more crucial as we build back from the impacts of Covid-19 and work towards new trading arrangements outside the EU.”

The unions added that while they are “delighted” with the announcement, it is only the beginning. “We must now work hard to ensure we get this new Code of Conduct right and that it works.”

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