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Play ball or we'll put dairy code in lawbook; WELSH MPs' WARNING TO MILK PROCESSORS.

Byline: ANDREW FORGRAVE Rural Affairs Editor

GOVERNMENT should bring in legislation to protect dairy farmers if the existing voluntary dairy code fails to work, Welsh MPs have said.

A report published this week by the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee said the code must be given a chance to work.

But it warned that if some processors fail to sign up to the code, or if "tangible improvements" are not forthcoming, the UK Government must be prepared to legislate, it concluded. If it came to this, the committee would prefer it to be done in co-operation with the Welsh Government.

Committee chairman David Davies said: " To give it the best chance to be effective, we urge all dairy processors who have not yet signed the voluntary code to do so."

The committee's inquiry was launched following last summer's milk price protests and involved visits to dairy units in the Aberystwyth area.

It was prompted by concerns that a squeezed dairy sector in Wales would have repercussions for the rural economy. With an estimated total economic output of around PS420m, the remaining 1,901 dairy farmers in Wales account for almost one third of all Welsh agricultural production.

Farm unions in Wales welcomed the report, with NFU Cymru warning processors that milk producers might be unwilling to supply processors if they fail to adopt the code.

The FUW supports the code but the union is worried it might not benefit all farmers.

"We have concerns that buyers will cherry-pick elements of the code that they want and leave producers in a slightly worse position," said FUW senior policy officer Hazel Wright. Dr Wright said the new Groceries Adjudicator's powers should be expanded to ensure the code is "properly policed".

According to NFU Cymru deputy president Stephen James, ongoing milk price discrepancies highlighted the need for an effective code.

Dairy commodity prices were rising - up by more than 40% since early March - driven by an "insatiable" demand for dairy products globally.

In April the UK dairy indicators AMPE and MCVE reached 38.8p/litre and 35.1p/litre respectively - yet the average farmgate price for milk in March was 30.04p/litre.

"So yet again we are lagging quite a bit behind ," he said.
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 23, 2013
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