Irish exports could be hit as Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss moves to clearly label cheese and butter in shop displays as British, to make it easier for customers to support the UK’s struggling dairy farmers.
Ms Truss will host a summit on Monday with farmers’ leaders and her ministerial counterparts from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to address the dairy farm crisis.
She said it must be made as easy as possible for consumers to know when they are buying British cheese and butter. Her government has already changed procurement rules to ensure state schools, hospitals and departments buy more seasonal and local produce.
Less than half of the butter eaten in the UK and only one third of the cheese comes from British milk. Imports include 40,000 tonnes of cheddar cheese per year.
Ireland’s dairy industry would suffer most if clearer labelling favours UK produce.
Cheese imports from Ireland are estimated at 100,000 tonnes per year (the produce from a billion litres of milk).
Last October, 400 members of the Farmers for Action group protested at Adams Foods, owned by Ornua (Irish Dairy Board), accusing Adams of importing cheap cheese from Ireland, which is often labelled as coming from British and Irish milk.
Earlier this year, UK farmers criticised Greencore when it opened a factory (creating 400 jobs), because they said it will use more than 900 tonnes of Irish cheddar per year.
Taking their cue from protesting French farmers bidding to close down their markets to foreign imports, in breach of EU single market principles, British farmers believe that 100% consumer and food service support for the UK’s Red Tractor quality mark cheese would boost the UK farmgate price for milk by 3-5p (sterling) per litre.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved