The letter, sent to the health minister Dr Daniel Poulter and the minister for agriculture and food David Heath says that the most ‘workable’ solution for early years settings, diaries, and dairy farmers would be to set a cap on the price paid for milk, but stressed it must accurately reflect the true costs of providing milk to children.
Capping the price that can be claimed for milk was one of three cost-cutting options proposed by the Department of Health (DoH) in its nursery milk consultation, which closed on 23 October. Other solutions to tackling the rising costs of the scheme across Britain include issuing e-vouchers to childcare providers and supplying and delivering milk under a central contract.
A response to the nursery milk review, according to the Department of Health, is due shortly.
The letter goes on to raise concerns that the suggested benchmark by the DoH for the provision of milk is based upon the price of milk in supermarkets, which does not take into account the cost of production and delivery of milk. Failure to do this, it says, could result in a significant reduction in the number of children receiving milk through the scheme.
John Gregory, manager of Rock Farm Dairy (pictured right), one of the letter’s signatories, said, ‘Our belief is that the best option would be a price cap, but this will only work if the Department of Health sets a cap at a sensible and realistic level. Using supermarket prices as a baseline would be wholly inappropriate, would fail to account for costs such as delivery and packaging, and would ultimately cause harm to the dairy industry and reduce the number of children receiving milk.‘It is important to recognise that while costs of the Nursery Milk Scheme have risen, this is largely due to an increase in the number of children receiving milk – a number that will only go down if the Department of Health proceeds with the wrong option following its consultation, or attempts to impose a price cap that is too low to be in any way financially viable.’