SUPERMARKET ASDA has agreed to take part in talks with Farmers For Action and Arla over the milk processor”s recent 0.4p/litre price cut.
The meeting has been arranged for Monday (Dec 20) following a successful meeting with FFA and Asda this week.
Andy Adcock, Asda’s meat and chilled foods director, said: “FFA has given us a report explaining why they see Arla is the cause of the problem with milk prices. The purpose of the meeting will be for everyone to sit down together, for the first time, to understand the dynamics of the situation.
“What Arla pays its producers is its business, but if I feel there is a fair and justified case for an increase, I will again challenge Arla.”
FFA chairman David Handley said he regarded getting the 0.4p/litre reinstated as the key to improving the position of dairy farmers.
“Wiseman has said it will cut its price by 0.5p/litre if Arla doesn”t reinstate and Dairy Crest has said it will have no alternative but to look at the liquid milk price if Wiseman cuts its price. We are trying to get us back on a level playing field.”
Mr Handley said that action against the supermarket would be suspended until the meeting. But he added: “If we come out of the meeting on Monday with a stalemate then Asda will be shut down on Monday night.”
Action against Asda has actually been limited since the supermarket warned some protesters in England that it would take legal action if they continued to blockade distribution depots.
But angry dairy farmers in Scotland have continued to mount peaceful protests outside Asda sites in recent weeks. The latest protest, involving 150 farmers, took place last week at Grangemouth.
Mark Ruskell, Green Party Member of the Scottish Parliament and his party’s spokesman on the environment, joined the dairy farmers’ protest in Falkirk last week.
He said the action by farmers was a result of “the distorted balance of power in the milk supply chain which allows supermarkets to dictate prices paid to farmers”.
That left farmers being paid less than the cost of production while Asda, owned by American retail giant Walmart, and other big supermarkets continued to report handsome profits, Mr Ruskell added.
“Our farmers are not easily driven to take such radical action. Those demonstrating did so after a full day’s work and I am sure they would have been much happier at home working to improve their businesses. This is an act of desperation in response to the tactics of a too-powerful supermarket,” he said.