Comment – Dairying and joined up government

Hard pressed dairy farmers and their suppliers, already reeling from further cuts to the milk price for next month, must regard the latest official public health advice to reduce dairy product consumption as a bad joke.

Most manufacturers have reported a fall in demand for dairy feeds as farmers cut costs where they can, helped by the mild winter weather. Arla and Muller have both announced further cuts in their milk prices, in line with global market values, while the crisis has sparked demonstrations in London, Brussels and EU member state capitals. And there is no end in sight – UK milk volumes are on a par with the same time last year, despite an 8% rise in cull cow slaughterings.

A crisis meeting of EU Farm Ministers earlier this month introduced some supply management measures to mitigate the crisis, while AHDB Dairy and Dairy UK have pledged £3.5m to promote dairy product consumption.

So what an opportune moment for Public Health England to publish its revised Eatwell Guide, which “defines the government’s advice on a healthy balanced diet”. Unfortunately, the latest guidance reduces the recommended dairy intake from 15% to just 8% of the diet.   

On one hand, government appears to support dairy production and consumption. But on the other, it seeks to reduce demand for the industry’s products and harm the wider rural business infrastructure that depends on dairy farming.