Farmers in second evening of protests over milk prices

Milk prices protest in Droitwich Farmers for Action says supermarkets must pay more for milk but without passing the increase to customers

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Dairy farmers have protested against milk price cuts for a second night by blockading two processing plants.

They used tractors and trailers to blockade the Robert Wiseman dairy in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, and a plant at Foston in Derbyshire.

After Thursday night's protests, the Co-operative supermarket chain said it would increase the premium it paid on milk to farmers within its group.

Farmers are protesting against planned milk price cuts of up to 2p a litre.

Four leading dairy processors recently announced the cuts, due from 1 August.

Campaign group Farmers for Action (FFA) said as many as 400 farmers and 20 tractors had blockaded the Foston site on Friday night.

About 200 protesters and 40 vehicles were involved in the four-hour demonstration in Worcestershire, according to West Mercia Police.

Hundreds of farmers protested at sites in Somerset, Yorkshire and Leicestershire on Thursday night, while more than 200 farmers met in Carmarthenshire on Friday to discuss their next move.

The FFA is warning that the cuts, combined with rising feed costs, could force hundreds of dairy farmers out of business - leading to milk being imported in large quantities.

'Long-term future'

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

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

Milk graphic

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) described the Co-op's announcement on Friday as a "positive step".

The Co-operative Dairy Group (CDG) said the premium farmers would receive would rise to 2.57 pence per litre (ppl) with immediate effect, and to 4.27ppl when the processors' price cuts came in from 1 August. It brings the total price its dairy farmers will be paid to 29ppl.

Steve Murrells, chief executive of Co-operative Food, said: "We have been in continual discussions on this issue with the National Farmers' Union and we have listened to their concerns.

"We are taking this action to help alleviate the immediate pressures that farmers within the CDG are facing. Going forward, we are committed to finding a supply model that is sustainable for the long-term future of our dairy farmers."

NFU president Peter Kendall said: "Their recognition of the real difficulties being faced by British farmers this summer and commitment to support them through these difficult times is to be applauded. But whilst this is an important move, all retailers must move to a sustainable funding model for the dairy industry."

Mr Kendall told the BBC that dairy farmers just wanted to be paid a fair price.

He said: "When you see four pints for under a pound - and I was at King's Cross station and you see half a litre of water for £1.39 - and then we see four pints of milk that's being produced, processed, got from the farm to the processing plant, to the shop and it's four times less than the litre of water."

Cream market

Chancellor George Osborne visited a farm in his Cheshire constituency to talk to a dairy farmer about milk prices.

Sarah Williams had challenged Mr Osborne to visit when she met him during a dairy farmers' rally in Westminster earlier this month. A Treasury source said Mr Osborne had "listened to concerns" during the visit on Friday.

The NFU has said milk price cuts will be felt by 27% of producers and impact on 25% of the milk market volume.

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It 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.

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

Robert Wiseman Dairies and First Milk have both cut the price by 1.7ppl, 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 FFA's Stephen Britten said that, as a last resort, the farmers would pour their milk "down the drain".

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