Second verse, same as the first

Screenshot of Nicholar Saphir, chair of the AHDB, from the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers' policy conference

For those of you not distracted by the US election, Europe has been going back into a second lockdown due to the upsurge in coronavirus cases here. In the UK, there was the usual jumble of a press conference over the weekend and now it’s going before Parliament, trying to get a few exceptions out – open air pools, golf courses and tennis courts – before a month-long shutdown. Same show, different day. But here we are, and how is dairy doing?

Well, after attending the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers policy conference this morning, I can say, I am optimistic. During the first lockdown, the British dairy industry got together and co-operated, mapping the milk supply and capacity throughout the country, so that the spring flush and the removal of the hospitality and catering sectors did not cripple it, according to Nicholar Saphir, the chair of the UK’s Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB). “The UK came through the spring flush in a far better shape than in other European Union countries and America,” he notes.

In addition to mapping the supply, the £1 million (€1.09m) campaign launched earlier this year by Dairy UK, AHDB, dairy processors, Defra, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments, has seen good results. The national dairy TV campaign, the first for 20 years, helped drive an estimated 11.2 million litres of additional liquid milk sales during the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, as well as raising £100,000 for mental health charities, Dairy UK says.

The UK-wide ‘Milk Your Moments’ campaign ran for 12 weeks from mid-May, and resulted in an additional 212,000 consumers buying milk who would not otherwise have purchased it. This was against a challenging background of milk already being bought by 98% of UK households prior to the pandemic.

Co-operation in this way is what people can do well when faced with such an existential challenge. As the lockdown largely removes the hospitality sector again, it will be tested again, but hopefully we not be found wanting this time either.

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