Multiple retailers have come under fire for their failure to support the Defra-led Dairy Supply Chain Forum.
At this week’s meeting of the forum, which was set up to address problems in the supply chain, not one representative from the multiples attended. Kevin Hawkins, director general of the British Retail Consortium, was there to represent the whole sector alone.
Monday’s meeting in London was seen as a key platform for discussing the industry’s future, with both the NFU and the
Milk Development Council presenting ideas for change.
Farmers’ leaders led calls for retailers to become more involved with the forum. NFU chief dairy adviser Tom Hind said: “There is a massive burden on the retailers to help change the industry. We need them to engage with us.”
The failure of retailers to attend contrasted starkly with their support for a beef summit hosted last month by Lord Bach, parliamentary secretary for sustainable farming and food. Lord Bach, who chairs the dairy forum, expressed his disappointment that no individual retailer had attended.
However, Hawkins defended retailers’ absence, arguing that it was simply a case of practicality. “If they will pitch these meetings on a Monday morning then this is the likely result. There are fewer and fewer people in retailers’ head offices now, because they have all had cuts in manpower.
“And as much as they will have wanted to attend, for some it just wouldn’t have been possible. The meeting was particularly difficult for Asda and Morrisons to get to.”
Hawkins said that other organisations including some farming and landowning bodies had also failed to attend.
Richard Clarke and Chris Walkland