Milk buyers are once again treating dairy producers with total disdain, farm leaders have warned.

The warning came as dozens of dairy farmers held a summit meeting on Thursday (11 April) at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, to discuss the best way of getting a fair price for their milk.

“The supply chain is treating us producers once again with total total disdain,” said NFU dairy committee chairman Mansel Raymond.

“There’s a fear factor out there among milk producers of no imminent price increases and worse still – talk of price cuts.”

Dairy producers were feeling demoralised on the back of the weather, the effects of TB and continued cashflow difficulties, said Mr Raymond.

Yet farmers saw global market scarcity when it came to milk and increases in the farmgate milk price must be forthcoming, he added.

“Farmers cannot understand why we are having delays in these price increases.”

Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco was paying farmers 32.77p for a litre of milk, said Mr Raymond. Marks & Spencer was paying 33.5p. But other retailers were paying much less.

“I would throw the challenge down – where the hell are the other retailers. Why are they not coming on board?”

Mr Raymond said he did want to talk the industry down, but he was “totally appalled” by any discussion or talk of milk price cuts that could be facing the industry.

“There’s a fear factor out there among milk producers of no imminent price increases and worse still – talk of price cuts.”
Mansell Raymond, NFU dairy committee chairman

“The processing industry better wake up – cheese takes a long time to mature and if they want cheese on the shelves this winter they had better start paying a proper price.”

DairyCo senior analyst Patty Clayton said globally milk prices were likely to remain firm into the summer – but depended in the longer term on the supply and strength of import buying.

“There’s not a lot of milk around,” she told farmers attending the summit.

In terms of demand, Western markets were likely to remain soft. But growth in emerging markets, including China, was likely to remain firm.

In the UK, milk supplies were expected to remain largely unchanged.

Competition for milk would determine the direction of prices, but again depended on the availability and price of imports.

In turn, this depended on the development of global and domestic milk supplies, as well as relative exchange rates, said Ms Clayton.

More immediately, the weather continued to play havoc with farmers. A cold winter had restricted grass growth and delayed spring plantings.

Consumer demand for milk was unlikely to change significantly. At the same time, the economic downturn meant there would be continued pressure on consumer budgets.

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