UK supermarkets 'British-only' policy poses new threat to Irish dairy sales
A new threat to Irish milk sales has emerged following moves by UK multiples to source dairy products made only from British milk.
Following intense lobbying and protests by English farmers last week, Tesco announced that it would use only British milk in its own-brand yoghurt from March next year. The yoghurt line is currently made with German milk.
The increasing re-nationalisation of purchasing policies as dairy prices continue to plummet could hit Irish cheese exports next. Ireland relies on Britain for close to one third of its cheese sales.
Tesco management agreed to re-examine its cheese labels following comments by the UK Environment secretary Elizabeth Truss that more than half of the butter and cheese bought in Britain was imported.
Ireland is one of the biggest exporters of cheese to the UK, facilitated by the large packing plant operated by Adams Foods for Ornua (Irish Dairy Board) based in Leek.
It provides a route for close to 50,000t of Irish cheese into the British market annually, representing almost one third of all the hard cheese sold in the UK.
However, Ornua's practice of re-packing large 20kg blocks of cheese into small retail packs labelled with 'packed in UK' is the target of increasing levels of criticism from the British public as their farmers struggle to stay in business.
"The idea that a cheese pack can state that the country of origin is UK, Ireland and New Zealand is just ridiculous, and consumers deserve better. But this is not about pitching Irish farmers against British farmers," said Farmers for Action leader, David Handley.