Dairy Crest has become the first major processor to withdraw its farmgate milk price cut planned for 1 August.
It came as farmers agreed to lift a 24-hours blockade of the company’s processing facility at Foston, Derbyshire.
Farmers Weekly has yet to receive official confirmation of the deal, which was made on Thursday (26 July).
It is understood that Dairy Crest has withdrawn its 1.65p per litre price cut planned for 1 August. But it remains to be seen whether an earlier price cut will also be withdrawn.
All eyes on now on other dairy processors ahead of the 1 August deadline imposed by farm leaders for a reversal of price cuts that threaten to drive farmers out of business.
A statement on the Farmers For Action website said: “All Dairycrest milk protests have been called off immediately following talks between FFA, the rest of the coalition and Dairycrest.”
It added: “All energy will now be concentrated on the other companies and these protests continue.”
A week of blockades has seen Britain’s retail giants increase the price they pay farmers for milk. But processors have yet to open their wallets.
Farmers have threatened to pour milk away unless price cuts of up to 4p per litre are reversed by 1 August.
Arla has also been among the targets with a sit-down protest at the processor’s Leeds facility after police threatened to arrest farmers.
Talks between farm leaders and processors are continuing in the hope of an announcement sooner rather than later.
A spokesperson for Arla insisted the Leeds-based processor was “not in a position to talk about milk price”.
But she added: “We do anticipate that we will be able to make an announcement before 1 August.”
The situation appears somewhat less promising with Robert Wiseman Dairies. “It is important to stress we are not in a position to fund a milk price at the level it was prior to the global collapse in the value of cream,” said a spokesman for the processor.
Whether this suggests only a partial reversal of price cuts remains to be seen. But farm leaders earlier this week reaffirmed their commitment to reversing all planned and existing milk price cuts to dairy farmers by 1 August.
NFU president Peter Kendall said protests by dairy farmers against the cuts would continue. “The farming community is more united than ever before and the strength of feeling on this dairy issue is increasing and not decreasing,” he said.
A coalition of farming groups has brought together representatives from the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru, the Tenant Farmers’ Association, Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers and Farmers For Action.
Asda, Morrisons and the Co-operative have increased the price they pay for milk by 2-5p.
But most farmers will be unaffected because they are on non-aligned contracts. Mr Kendall said the price rises were a step in the right direction but the battle was far from over.
“Many don’t supply milk to a dedicated retailer milk pool and so behind the scenes we have started to tackle the discount retailers and food service companies.
“We will focus the spotlight on any company that is exploiting farmers and paying crazy low prices for their milk.”
The coming week would see the dairy coalition pull out all the stops to ensure processors in the middle of the supply chain pulled the August cuts.