More farmer demos possible over supermarket milk prices


Farmers have warned they could form blockades again on Friday night

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Farmers are threatening further action after hundreds blockaded milk processing plants with their tractors in protest at the prices some supermarkets pay suppliers.

The farmers - angry at cuts of up to 2p a litre - were at sites in Somerset and Yorkshire, and met in Carmarthenshire to discuss their next move.

Farmers for Action (FFA) said members may decide to hold back their milk.

The British Retail Consortium says other purchasers should be scrutinised.

FFA warns that hundreds of dairy farmers could be forced out of business by price cuts - as well as rising feed costs - which would lead to milk being imported in large quantities.

It says some supermarkets pay a fair price directly to farmers for liquid milk.

But it warns that farmers are making a loss of up to 3p a litre on milk used in dairy products - such as cheese, milk and butter - sold by some of those same supermarkets.

'Can't go on'

The National Farmers Union (NFU) said the cuts would be felt by 27% of producers, and impact on 25% of the milk market volume.

FFA's Stephen Britten, at the Arla plant in Leeds - usually one of the UK's busiest with thousands of litres coming in and out of the site - said "we can't go on any longer".

He said supermarkets must pay more for milk - "but it has to come out of their profit and not from the consumers".

"We are tightening our belts all the time but we have a welfare angle - it's no good if we don't look after the cows properly.

"But the supermarkets, their margins are getting bigger and our margins are getting less and it has to stop."

FFA has threatened further blockades on Friday night.

Meanwhile, in Wales more than 200 farmers attended a meeting in Carmarthenshire to voice their concerns about price cuts. Some farmers called for action, with one suggesting pouring milk down the drain in two days of protests.

And in Scotland, an East Lothian farmer delivered 300 pints of free milk in Edinburgh to urge consumers to press supermarkets for a fair deal for dairy producers.

'Ultimate sacrifice'

Mr Britten said that, as a last resort, the farmers would pour their milk "down the drain".

"We're going to go out of business so we'll see how they like it with no milk at all on their shelves."

The Robert Wiseman Dairy processing plant off junction 24 of the M5 near Bridgwater in Somerset was blockaded by more than 200 farmers with their tractors on Thursday night.

Start Quote

Eleven of the 12 best paying customers for milk are paid by supermarkets and are under a lot of public scrutiny”

End Quote Sarah Cordey British Retail Consortium

FFA chairman David Handley, speaking at the protest, said if the situation did not improve, farmers would make the "ultimate sacrifice" of keeping milk on their farms.

"We have got to fight the industry because if we don't the industry is going to go."

Hundreds of farmers also blocked deliveries at the Arla plant in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, in Leicestershire.

Arla Foods said reducing the milk price was "always the last resort" but it had "literally exhausted all other options".

"It's a tough time and we are not happy about the situation," it said.

The Robert Wiseman Dairy said it simply could not pay the price the farmers were asking for.

But Sarah Cordey of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said supermarkets were the "wrong targets" in the campaign.

"Eleven of the 12 best paying customers for milk are paid by supermarkets and are under a lot of public scrutiny," she said.

Celebrity backing

The BRC says dairy processors, manufacturers and the public sector should be held accountable in the same way as retailers.

Milk price graphic

Asda, Morrisons and the Co-operative have previously pointed out they pay a premium above the market price charged by suppliers.

But the farmers' cause has been backed by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who urged the public to boycott supermarkets that used milk as "a loss leader".

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall told BBC News the dairy farmers were targeting the three chains as they had the "most punitive and least sustainable" contracts.

Farming Minister Jim Paice said that, while government "cannot and should not" set prices, he would try to "get all levels of the supply chain to make the real changes needed to guarantee the industry's long-term future".

In the dairy industry, the processors set the price they pay farmers for their milk.

Four leading dairy processors recently announced the latest cuts - applied from 1 August.

Robert Wiseman Dairies and First Milk have both cut the price by 1.7 pence per litre (ppl), Arla Foods UK by 2ppl and Dairy Crest by 1.65ppl.

They say they have had no choice because the price they can sell cream for on the commodities market has fallen sharply in the past 12 to 18 months.

Milk processing involves skimming off cream to make milk more palatable for consumers.

The NFU said an average farmer, with about 150 to 200 cows, would lose about £37,000 in revenue from the combined effect of previous cuts in May/June and the new cuts in August.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    No sympathy for them I'm afraid. The farmers successfully lobbied their last (Tory) govt to get the MMB shut down as it was against both their, and the govt of the days, ideology. The result? Supermarkets were allowed, as they should be in a free market, to pay what they wanted for milk, not what was set by the MMB to benefit the farmers. The words 'foot, shoot, themselves' come to mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    In reply to 160. Not all farmers get benefits and we are not asking for hand outs we just want a fair price for our milk. We have not just lost 2p off the price of our milktis month but they knocked 2p off the price of our milk 2 months ago so that is 4p altogether.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    The people who say they've never met a poor farmer probably know very few farmers - very many earn a lot less than office workers for a lot more hours.

    The farmers should do the same as here in France & create a "Milk from Here" brand so the public can choose to buy local milk. Needs a partnership with a supermarket, though - seems to me it's a chance for one to shine above the competition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    I work on a dairy and like other post's below have said Farming is a lifestyle not a job! On average i work 60-70 Hrs a week and i put my Love, Care and Attention into making sure the cows are well looked after We need to do something to help the farmers out as soon there will be no British Produce and the countryside will be a mess and look uncared for. I love my job and would not change it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    He has No idea why his post at 175 was moderated. He made a critisism about the NFU, he is a land owner but not a dairy farmer, so has the right to say what he thinks, which is true, and did not break any code of conduct. Un-Like the BBC accusing & filming an excentric retired teacher, and branding him a peodiphile, and never made an apology when he was exonerated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    I cannot believe milk is as cheap as it is, I don't know any farmers so this is my view, my girlfriend and myself shop at Sainsburys and they have an offer on, 2x2 litres of milk for £2, I even comented to my girlfriend how can it be that cheap but now we know, we would gladly pay £1.50 for 2 litres of milk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I think it's disgusting that the poorest in the UK cannot afford to enable the benefit dependency of these poor farmers.

  • Comment number 175.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Milk cheaper than water? Surely that can't be right.
    We should be proud of a national industry and support it, not cause it's demise by indifferance.
    Name and shame poor supermarket payers, so I can join the campaign, support our dairy farmers and pay a fair price for a wonderful product .

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Why is this union not being attacked by the tories for blockades and trying the impede the normal course of business?

    Why is Dave Cameron giving them £5million to mobilise their union members?

    Why isn't Frances Maude making absurd suggestions about storing milk at home.....or cheese as it will become known?

    Why are farmers treated like bankers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    We have got to fight the industry because if we don't the industry is going to go."

    Hundreds of farmers also blocked deliveries at the Arla plant in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, in Leicestershire.
    Have they hired Bob Crowe as a consultant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    I only drink goats milk, as the over use of cows milk has developed an allergy for me. The price of goats milk is significantly higher than cows milk, yet I still buy it as I need it. People will pay more for milk if they need it. People on low incomes are entitled to milk vouchers if they have a specific need for milk, Pay the farmers fairly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    163. Diary Daughter

    Farming is a way of living, not just a job! therfore farmers cant just give up and go find another job!
    Why not? 10 years ago i was made redundant from a job I absolutely loved, spent 5 years doing an apprenticeship for and thought I'd be doing it for the rest of my life. I've mangaged to carve out a living in a totally unrelated field
    You have to adapt..

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Entitlement - calling a strike for the eve of the Olympics. To hell with everyone else - its that "I have MY rights you know attitude' that is/will destroy the UK. The farmers 'work' 24/7 and will be fine, you mediocre types on the other hand......

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.


    38 Degrees ... already done! :)

    But I was thinking more of the fact that giant impersonal companies like G4S will end up running all of our public institutions for huge profit, whilst paying their staff peanuts, and delivering shabby services.

    And just to be clear, I do have a lot of sympathy for anyone who is struggling to make a living - including farmers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    I give the farmers their words from the 80's when other groups of workers were complaining of not getting enough wages. They and their organisation told others "if you don't like the wages you are getting then move to somewhere else that will".

    No sympathy from the farmers at the time to others so none from me to the farmers.

    Why should they be an exception?

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Maybe this is an example of the ENTITLEMENT that Dave Cameron wants to break away from. Farmers, like the bankers, need to realise that they are not entitled to hand outs and benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    1 Hour ago
    you'd say to yourself ...'ah well, I'll it on the chin because a select group of corporations need to make a huge profit and pay no tax'.

    Because of pressure from 38 degrees Macdonalds and Coca-Cola have agreed to pay tax on the profits within the Olympic complex.
    Sign their petition and we could get the rest of the sponsors to pay tax on the Olympic generated profits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    27. - Commentator
    I've never seen such a crass comment on one of these forums in years.
    Speechless now......

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    I reply to a comment below, i am sure you know who you are! - Farming is a way of living, not just a job! therfore farmers cant just give up and go find another job! My family work 16 hour days, manual, physical work, I doubt you would have that work ethic in you let alone actually manage to be able to do that day in day out, with no day off! Bet your a vegi too!


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