Liz was in Hexham recently for the Northern Farmers Conference, where we both got an update on the local issues and spoke to dairy farmers.
Yesterday, we discussed the problems faced by the depreciating milk prices, the reduction in the number of dairy farms, the problems facing First Milk, and the smaller providers that are struggling to expand, work cooperatively, or export.
We all pushed hard to ensure immediate action on labelling of British products on supermarket shelves, to make sure that supermarkets extended their ‘cost-plus payments’ (in which they pay over the cost of production) from liquid milk to other milk products.
We also need the urgent introduction of higher fines on supermarkets that did not follow the rules.
Clearly the point was made that we need Single Farm Payments to be made on time.
We received a favourable response from Liz. She is pushing the Business Department on the Fines point, and continues to battle the EU on labelling. This is something I know our MEPs are working on.
She also explained new opportunities for British milk producers to export to markets such as China, where demand was growing fast.
Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire, Conservative) The dairy industry underpins the economy of rural Britain, including that of my constituency of Montgomeryshire. The dairy industry is currently in difficulty. Does the Prime Minister accept that the Government must consider all ways to bring stability to this important sector, including whether the powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator should be extended and strengthened?
David Cameron (The Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative)
I very much agree with my hon. Friend. It is important that we look at how we can support Britain’s dairy farmers at a time of very low milk prices. This is an important industry for our country and I think there are a number of things we can do; first, make sure that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is prepared to provide the time to pay to support our dairy farmers. There is more we can do in terms of leading exports for British food producers—I know theSecretary of State is very keen on that. Specifically on the Groceries Code Adjudicator, something we have established, it is time to make sure that that organisation
has the power, if necessary, to levy fines so that it can get its will obeyed. I also think it is time to look at whether there are ways in which its remit can be extended to make sure it looks at more of this vital industry.