On Friday (17 April), the government announced it will temporarily relax elements of UK competition law to support the dairy industry through the coronavirus outbreak.
As covered positively by Farming UK, Farming Life and Agriland, the government is grateful for the hard work farmers are doing to maintain the supply of an essential household product and is working closely with the dairy supply chain through this difficult period.
With the UK’s dairy farmers producing over 40 million litres of milk every day, the legislation, which will be laid shortly, will allow the industry to adapt to changes in the supply chain including decreased demand from the hospitality sector and reduced collection by retailers who have had to close.
It follows action already taken by the government to temporarily relax competition rules to allow retailers, suppliers and logistic services to work together during the coronavirus outbreak. While this has already allowed the dairy industry to redirect some of their supplies to retailers, this latest move will enable further collaboration between dairy farmers and producers so they can avoid their surplus milk going to waste and harming the environment.
This could include sharing labour and facilities, cooperating to temporarily reduce production or identifying where there is hidden capacity in the supply chain for processing milk into other dairy products such as cheese and butter.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
Our dairy industry plays a crucial role in feeding the nation and it is essential that they are able to work together at this time.
We’ve heard loud and clear our dairy farmers’ concerns which is why we are further suspending competition rules law to allow dairy farmers to work together on some of the most pressing challenges they are facing. I am also urging farm businesses to access the loans that are available from their bank to support them in this period.
We welcome our farmers’ heroic efforts in ensuring food supplies remain resilient and will continue to support them through this difficult time.
Dairy UK and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) will now lead work to bring the industry together to identify spare processing capacity, how to stimulate demand and how production could be temporarily reduced.