The NFU is embarking on a project to establish the feasibility - and legality - of setting up a Fairtrade-style standard for fresh milk in the UK, The Grocer can reveal.

The move follows calls by farmers and the public in recent weeks following planned cuts - subsequently scrapped - to farmgate milk prices by milk processors, which led to widespread farmer protests.

As The Grocer went to press, the NFU was due to meet the Fairtrade Foundation on Thursday, to learn how the NGO’s Fairtrade pricing mechanism worked and how such a system might be translatable to British milk.

NFU head of food chain, Lee Woodger, who is spearheading the project, has already lined up meetings with major foodservice companies following the Foundation meeting. The initiative was “not about price fixing”, but rather about “trying to replicate what has been done for farmers in the developing world,” he said.

While it was too early to say what form the ‘fair deal milk’ initiative would take, Woodger suggested it could involve a pricing formula that milk buyers would be able to conform to in return for using a logo. He is liaising with the NFU’s lawyers in a bid to comprehensively establish whether a Fairtrade-style system is legally viable.

To date, little progress has been made on establishing a Fairtrade system for milk, because competition law was seen to stand in the way. It would also fall outside the remit of the Fairtrade Foundation, because it focuses on developing countries.

The findings of the project will be put to the NFU Policy Board next month.

Debate on the feasibility of a Fairtrade scheme in UK dairy has grown since The Grocer first mooted the possibility last month (The Grocer, 14 July).