By Daniel Hunter

Protests over the future of the UK dairy industry should focus on sectors which aren't playing their part in supporting British farmers, the British Retail Consortium says.

Speaking ahead of a demonstration in London today (Wednesday), the BRC is pointing out retailers are the best payers for milk. Contracts between retailers and their dairy processors are overseen by the Groceries Supply Code of Practice and retailers choose to go further, ensuring the price paid to farmers in their supply chains supports their businesses.

Other farmers have no such protection. The BRC says dairy processors, manufacturers and the public sector should be held accountable in the same way retailers are, with the Government setting an example over its own procurement.

"Supermarkets are the best payers in the milk market. Supermarkets only sell British milk but their customers don't need all the milk produced by UK dairy farmers," British Retail Consortium Food Director, Andrew Opie, said.

"Only half of the milk British farmers produce ends up as liquid milk in bottles and cartons and only part of that is sold in supermarkets, the rest is sold by convenience stores, door-to-door or used in catering, schools and prisons.

"A number of supermarkets have dedicated milk supply chains which allow them to work closely with specific groups of farmers, guaranteeing how much the farmers get for their milk and helping them invest in the long-term sustainability of their businesses. That matters to retailers who want successful relationships that will provide the milk they and their customers need, not just now, but over the coming decades. But that can't be the answer for every farmer.

"The pressure should be on other big buyers of milk — food manufacturers and the public sector - to show the same strong support for the industry that retailers do. The truth is, the farmers in the best position are often those in supermarket supply chains."

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