November 10, 2006


UK 'may have to import milk'



The UK might have to import milk from Europe within five years if more is not done to help dairy farmers, warned a leading retailer.


Sir Stuart Hampson, chairman of the leading UK retail store, John Lewis Partnership said the sector would become unviable if no action was taken.


England lost one dairy farm a day in 2005, according to government figures. Sir Stuart said it would be "scandalous" if the UK had to import milk. They were reaching a point where the dairy industry was facing challenges and something had to be done to save the sector, he said.


Earlier, Sir Stuart welcomed moves by Sainsbury's and Tesco to follow in the footsteps of Waitrose supermarkets and set up dairy producer groups that invested in the farmers and offered them long-term contracts and financial support.


However, the Milk Development Council (MDC) held otherwise. They felt though dairy farmers were under financial pressure, there were signs the industry was beginning to tackle the causes of low profitability on farms.


The UK would have to lose 50 percent of its current production in order to have to import milk, remarked the head of economics at the MDC, Ken Boyns, referring to Sir Stuart's prediction.