The high cost of milk has been slammed by a Northland health provider chief executive, who says it’s a national outrage that a country which produces 15 billion litres annually cannot supply cheap milk to the domestic market.
Manaia Health PHO chief executive Chris Farrelly said that the price of milk in a Whangarei supermarket for a two litre bottle of milk was up to $4.79 and the cheapest was $3.65.
“Milk is vital for children’s health and bone development. Milk and milk products provide energy, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals,” he said.
“It should be seen as an essential food – not a luxury,” said Mr Farrelly.
A children’s nutrition survey showed that milk consumption had dropped by a third since the 1980s, replaced by soft drinks which were usually much cheaper.
“Low income families simply cannot afford to drink milk,” said Mr Farrelly.
“It’s no wonder we are seeing increasing childhood obesity and diabetes if families are swapping milk for fizzy.
“The argument that milk sold in New Zealand must match international prices is a nonsense particularly when only five per cent of our milk production is for the domestic market.
“We should note the wisdom of the large Middle East oil-producing states which ensure cheap petrol for their own people.
“To our country’s shame 22 per cent of our children are living in poverty, 55,000 children in New Zealand do not eat breakfast on any given day. This has a proven impact on academic performance, behaviour and overall health.
“Sometimes the issues around child poverty overwhelm us, we have deep concern but don’t know what to do. However as a country there are specific interventions that will make a difference for our children – and we could start by lowering the price of milk.” he says.
Mr Farrelly suggested several ways to encourage milk drinking and healthy food choices.
They included by introducing price control or subsidies and not relying on an uncompetitive domestic market to constrain prices; offering assistance to low-income families to ensure they could afford to buy healthy food; including milk as part of a “Breakfast in Schools” programme in lower-decile schools.