Dairy farmers stage Market Drayton milk price protest

Protestors block a lorry
Image caption Protesters set up a blockade outside the dairy in Market Drayton, Shropshire

Hundreds of farmers have staged a protest over milk prices outside one of the UK's largest dairies.

About 250 demonstrators blockaded the Muller Wiseman plant in Market Drayton, Shropshire, from 21:00 BST on Monday.

Protest group Farmers for Action said its members voted for the action in response to falling milk prices.

Muller UK & Ireland Group chief executive Ronald Kers branded the group "militants" and said blockades could damage the dairy industry.

He said a worldwide surplus of milk coupled with weaker demand had driven down the price of dairy products.

Muller was one of a number of major milk processors which recently announced it would lower the price it paid for milk.

'Out of business'

David Hanley, chairman of Farmers for Action who was at the protest, said the future for dairy farmers was uncertain.

"It's very simple," he said.

"For the last three or four months, we have been telling this processer and all the other processers that the milk price cuts they're making aren't sustainable and they are going to put a lot of dairy farmers out of business."

He said the the current problem of over production in the UK was only "1% between supply and demand and that is not extreme".

Image caption Muller and other milk processors have cut the price they pay farmers for milk

"These people are using every excuse under the sun to take advantage and cut milk prices. Why? Because they can. Why? Because we are the weakest link."

Sam Jones, a member of Newport and Wem Young Farmers, also at the protest, told BBC News it was important to get the message out to the public that their future was in jeopardy.

"It can't be right," he said.

'The way it is'

"We're doing a 100-hour week for less than the cost of production.

"We're just not going to be able to keep going."

But Rob Harrison, chairman of the National Farmers Union national dairy board said: "It is really tough that actually we're in a global marketplace, that is the way it is.

"We trade in dairy products.

"We can bring imports in, exports out, etc etc and actually that is the price."

Farmers For Action said it planned to stage a second protest on Wednesday in Bridgwater, Somerset and would also target supermarkets in the coming weeks.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has urged supermarkets to pay more for milk.

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