Green issues should be at the top of the agenda for the world's dairy processors, not commodity prices or nutrition, according to president of the International Dairy Federation Jim Begg.
Ignoring record milk powder prices and the raging debate over dairy and nutrition, Begg told 900 delegates at the World Dairy Summit this week the environment was the greatest test facing the industry.
"It will be the major driver of the allocation of our future resources in dairying - in the nature of our products and the way we produce them," he said.
"This is an issue which affects us greatly in the dairy industry, operating as we do in the global market. We must promote it to the top of our agenda because it is in this arena that our ability to manage change will be tested," he added.
The comments come only a fortnight after Begg, who is also director general of Dairy UK, panned Defra's draft road map to slash the greenhouse gas emitted during milk production.
The proposals included a wholesale move to UHT milk and a 60% reduction in methane emissions from cattle, which Dairy UK branded unworkable, although it admitted there was room for improvement.
The industry has been at pains to emphasise its green achievements to date, including a 17% reduction in energy use, a 10% cut in plastic bottle weight and investment in biomass.
However, NFU chief dairy adviser Tom Hind urged the dairy industry to work together on reducing emissions, rather than competing over it. "The classic example of this is the food miles versus carbon footprint debate that has been taking place between the UK and New Zealand dairy industries," he said. "The real competition in the eyes of the public lies between dairy and non-dairy, and it is incumbent on the entire world dairy industry to take on the anti-dairy lobby rather than taking on itself."