Ash Amirahmadi: We can make the difference for our farmers

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WE are proud at Arla to be 100 per cent owned by 3,000 British dairy farmers, alongside 10,500 fellow farmers from across Europe.

This farmer-owned structure means that when you buy an Arla product every penny of profit is paid back, directly, to our hard working farmers who in turn support their families and our local communities.

Nowhere is this truer than in Yorkshire.

Over 250 dedicated Yorkshire farmers are Arla owners and provide the milk to our dairies in Stourton, on the edge of Leeds, and Settle that produce the freshest milk, cream and butter for your kitchen tables.

Equally, we employ more than 1,500 people from the region – meaning that buying from Arla doubly strengthens and supports the Yorkshire economy.

It is no secret that dairy farmers in the UK and elsewhere are under pressure. Global supply of dairy products has been growing at a faster rate than global demand and this has led to a cyclical decline in farm gate prices.

Two key global markets, China and Russia, which together account for nearly 30 per cent of globally traded dairy products, have suffered issues on the demand side of the equation. Russia, which has historically been one of the world’s biggest dairy importers, embargoed products from the EU in August 2014. Chinese demand for dairy products is still growing but it has slowed on the back of rising retail prices in the last upward cycle.

Because the dairy industry is increasingly globalised, this leads to a domino effect on prices and farmers are feeling the impact of this volatility and uncertainty.

Against this backdrop, we are proud that Arla, the largest dairy company in the UK, has consistently delivered a market leading price for its farmer owners. Nevertheless our farmers, like others in the sector, have had to weather milk price reductions in recent months.

With the situation in Russia not expected to change until the latter half of 2015, considering what we can all do to help support our local farmers whilst prices remain comparatively low is important and can make a real difference.

As a farmer-owned business, we take a long-term view and understand the importance of building partnerships with our customers. Over the last 10 years our farmers have demonstrated their commitment to the Yorkshire economy by investing over £150m in building a supply chain that can compete on a global scale for innovation, product quality and efficiency.

When we speak to our consumers, they tell us that they care about dairy farmers and would be happy to pay more for dairy products if they knew that the money went directly back to farmers. At Arla this is a promise that we can make. 100 per cent of our profits from selling our well-known brands, including Lurpak, Anchor, and Cravendale, go directly back to our farmers with no middlemen taking a cut.

That is why we launched Support our Farmers initiative last week, a national campaign to encourage consumers to support dairy farmers directly by buying Arla products.

We believe the campaign is the first of its kind, and in keeping with our co-operative model, it is being driven from the ground up by our farmer owners and employees.

I hope you might have seen a farmer, or one of my colleagues, in your local community spreading the word and delivering leaflets, explaining Arla’s farmer-owned structure. Or that you may have seen our advertising in national newspapers or our social media campaign.

Crucially the campaign answers the question we most often have to answer – what can we do to support British farmers? As individuals we can sometimes feel that the events that are generating headlines are beyond our control. But as consumers, the choices and decisions we make we can make a real difference. At Arla we believe both in the short and medium term consumers can help farmers achieve a better price for their milk.

By pouring Cravendale milk into your tea and coffee, spreading Lurpak on your toast, or making a sandwich with Anchor cheddar you will be doing your bit to ensure farmers get a better price for their milk, meaning they can look forward to a more secure future for their farms and families. And where would we be without milk? It is nutritious and part of a balanced diet. Right now, British farmers need the support of the British public so that they can continue to milk their cows and produce the high quality dairy products that we all enjoy every day.

We are committed to our farmers and our aims are the same as theirs: to get the best price possible for their milk. We want you to help them too by Supporting our Farmers.

• Ash Amirahmadi is Head of Milk Member Services of Arla Foods UK.