Dairy farmers staged a protest against Iceland Foods over its decision to slash the price of a four-pint carton of milk to 89p.
About 150 farmers blockaded an Iceland factory in Warrington, Cheshire, on Thursday night (16 October) as part of series of protests against falling milk prices, organised by Farmers For Action (FFA).
Earlier this week, Iceland announced it had cut the price of a four-pint carton of milk from £1 to 89p . The retailer launched a poster campaign using slogans such as “Holy Cow” and “Cheapest milk in town!”.
The timing of the campaign drew fierce criticism from dairy farmers, who are struggling after seeing their milk prices plunge by as much as 6p/litre during the past four months.
Iceland Foods has defended its decision to lower the price of milk on its shelves, saying it had not lowered the price it paid farmers for their milk.
But FFA chairman David Handley described Iceland’s move as a “disgrace” and said it would lead to lower milk prices paid to farmers by other milk processors and retailers.
While the protest was taking place against Iceland, more than 400 dairy farmers packed in to Penrith Auction Mart, Cumbria, for a crisis meeting about falling milk prices. The meeting, hosted by FFA, followed a request by Cumbrian dairy farmers.
Speaking after the meeting, FFA chairman David Handley told ITV News: “I think probably this is the most serious situation in dairying that I have seen in my career.
“We have seen a very short period of reasonably sustainable milk prices and then, all of a sudden, we have seen this massive collapse – and if it continues I think we have got some serious problems ahead of us.”
Mr Handley has told Farmers Weekly that the protests would continue into next week and beyond.
“We have got a team of dairy farmers who are looking at various sites and we will make a decision either Friday afternoon or Saturday morning,” he said.
“There will be something in the South West and something in the middle of England. We are also looking at something further north.”
Many dairy farmers have seen milk prices plummet from 34p/litre six months ago to 27p/litre from 1 November. Some suppliers to First Milk have seen their prices fall to just over 24p/litre.
The NFU has blamed global oversupply, the effect of the Russian trade embargo on EU dairy supplies and Chinese buyers withdrawing from the market for the price drop.
But dairy commentators have criticised the union after it urged dairy farmers to increase production earlier this year.
Tim Farron, South Lakes MP and Liberal Democrat chairman, said support from public processors, retailers and government was “key” to turning around the fortunes of struggling dairy farmers.
Pictures courtesy of Twitter account of JimBob (@JBwills)