Garstang farmer’s praise for ‘lifeline’ milk scheme

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A Garstang farmer has praised a supermarket’s pioneering Fair Milk Deal as being a lifeline for their business.

As the dairy industry continues in a perilous state, with many farmers being paid less than the cost of production, regional retailer Booths marked two years of their Fair Milk scheme with a review of the impact of the scheme on both farmers and customers.

The pioneering scheme pledges to pay the highest market price to farmers, ensuring farmers receive a fair price for their milk, covering the cost of production and enabling them to invest in a stable, profitable future as a result.

Customer research carried out by independently audited ABA indicated 93 per cent of Booths shoppers supported the ethos of Fair Milk and would continue to buy milk that paid a fair price to farmers, even if that meant paying more for milk. And 66 per cent percent of shoppers said that the fair price paid to farmers on Booths milk was their most important consideration on purchase.

Chief executive Chris Dee said: “I’m gratified, but not surprised, by the support of our customers for Fair Milk.

“Paying farmers a fair price for milk is as important to us as a business as it is to our customers. We trade in rural locales and our farmers are often our customers, giving a fair deal is core to our buying ethos.”

The two year impact on the family farms producing milk for Booths has been staggering.

The fair price paid to farmers has enabled all the farms supplying Booths to make significant capital investments to their farms, improving livestock conditions and working conditions for the farmers.

This is in stark contrast to the farming industry as a whole, where recent research by the Prince’s Countryside Fund reported one in five farmers were facing severe financial hardship.

The UK now has fewer than 10,000 dairy farmers, less than half the number in 2002. It’s the smallest number in living memory.

Claire Barber, who farms with her husband Richard at High Hopes Farm near Garstang, said: “This really has been life-changing for us, and to be honest, the Fair Milk contract saved the farm for us.

Being paid a fair price for our milk has enabled us to focus on the welfare of our herd — and their health is completely uncompromised.

“We’ve dramatically reduced the use of antibiotics and our milk productivity is at a record high.”

“The dairy industry is in a dire state and I’m aware other farmers are struggling and are less fortunate with their contracts. My wish is for other retailers to read the customer data from Booths—and pay a fair price to farmers. It’s what the industry needs and customers will support this.”

“We made a permanent decision to commit to paying our farmers a fair price. Booths stand by their promise and commit to paying the highest farm gate price for milk in the market. It’s the right thing for our customers and farmers.” added Mr Dee.