Competition law change a lifeline for dairy farmers

Competition law change a lifeline for dairy farmers

A change in competition law that will help prevent potentially thousands of litres of milk a day going to waste is a vital lifeline for dairy farmers, a leading Midlands agricultural lawyer has said.

Rural expert Iain Morrison has praised the government’s decision to suspend certain competition rules and allow farmers to essentially work together during the coronavirus pandemic.

The shut down of restaurants and cafes has seen demand for milk from commercial premises fall away, despite a surging need for bottles for people self-isolating or working from home.

Mr Morrison, partner and head of rural and agricultural affairs at law firm mfg solicitors, said farmers had been pouring milk away despite earlier shortages in the supermarkets.

He said: “With the UK producing around 40 million litres of milk every day, there have been stories of farmers waiting for lorries to turn up to take their fresh milk away and then being told they aren’t coming.

“All of this has been because certain customers in the restaurant, café and pub sectors have had to shut during the lockdown and even though people still need milk and the supermarkets have had plenty of demand for it, they’ve not been able to sell it on.

“The temporary suspension of some of our competition laws means farmers and dairies can collaborate, share staff, suppliers and logistics and cut their costs while they work to keep the nation nourished. It also means they can more easily make use of their milk in other products such as cheese.”

Mr Morrison, a past president of the Worcestershire Law Society, said the changes were essential for keeping farmers in business.

He added: “This is a vital lifeline during unprecedented times and should be welcomed. Competition laws are there to protect the consumer but at a time like this the message is very much about working together in the national interest and collaborating, not competing.”

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