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Happy World Milk Day from Stuart Martin

Happy 22nd World Milk Day writes NFU Scotland’s Milk Policy Manager Stuart Martin.

For those involved in the dairy sector around the world, 1 June is a date on the calendar that has now become familiar and significant to us all.  

The theme for this year’s World Milk Day https://worldmilkday.org/ will highlight the work already being done to accelerate climate action and help reduce the dairy sector’s impact on the planet.

Using the World Milk Day platform, the aim is to raise awareness of the messaging and action towards Dairy Net Zero. And this also offers a great opportunity to put a positive spotlight on the important contributions of the dairy sector to:

  • Good food, health, and nutrition
  • Farmers caring responsibly for their communities, the land, and their animals
  • Sustainability practices in the dairy sector
  • Economic development and livelihoods

In 2001, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations established World Milk Day to recognise the importance of milk as a global food, and to celebrate the dairy sector. Each year since, the benefits of milk and dairy products have been actively promoted around the world, including how dairy supports the livelihoods of one billion people.

To the dairy farming community of Scotland and beyond, there is a great recognition that milk and dairy foods are important sources of several nutrients which contribute to health.  It is packed with calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins and potassium.  Plus, it is an excellent source of protein.

But as we celebrate the benefits of the product that the farmers work extremely hard to produce, it is important to keep focused on what drives their businesses forward.

It has been widely reported last week that inflation in agriculture has soared to over 30 percent, the highest level for decades, with dairy businesses hit hardest.  In relation, UK inflation has hit a 40-year high of 9 percent as the cost of food and energy soar.  The difference in these two percentage figures is very significant.

Milk price at retail level is often used by the media as a barometer of consumer behaviour.  However, what is often forgotten is that we are starting from a very low base, where historically milk has been sold as a loss leader.  

In an article written by Gary Mitchell, NFUS Milk Committee Chair, as recent as November 2021, he stated for that, for too long, 30 pence per litre (ppl) had been seen as the great target for dairy farmers.

With rising costs on labour, feed, fertiliser and fuel and a constant demand for additional capital investment projects to stay in touch with industry demands, he suggested it was not too ridiculous to suggest that 40ppl was to be the new 30ppl.

Well, who could have predicted that not only was Gary correct, but to meet the rising costs and allow for future investment, and confront the current challenges on farm and in the supply chain, even that target now looks grossly outdated?

If you are users of social media, in addition to getting involved in #worldmilkday I would urge all users on twitter to follow @dairyuk who put out so many positive messages out about the benefits of consuming dairy products.  

A lot of the information can be found here http://www.dairyuk.org/  an excellent resource in myth busting and presenting the key features of dairy in a positive light.  

AHDB “We eat balanced” campaign https://weeatbalanced.com/ has also been successful at strong messaging and integrating with the consumer.

So, whether you are drinking milk, eating cheese, enjoying dairy desserts or pouring cream on your strawberries on 1 June, I wish you Happy World Milk Day.

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