Farmers protest outside Morrisons distribution depot in Bridgwater, Somerset

Farmers protest outside Morrisons distribution depot in Bridgwater, Somerset © Adrian Sherratt/Rex Shutterstock

Industry leaders have called on the government and retailers to support British agriculture as protests by farmers over low prices continue.

Growers and producers face financial devastation due to plummeting markets, said farm leaders meeting for an emergency summit in London on Monday (10 August).

The summit has brought together farm union leaders from across the UK to discuss problems facing the industry – and the livestock and dairy sectors in particular.

See also: Dairy cows herded through Asda in milk price protest

Union leaders from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are keen to present a united front as they strive to find a way through the crisis.

Prices, which have fallen below the cost of production, meant many farmers were facing financial devastation, warned NFU president Meurig Raymond.

“In dairy, many milk producers have seen price cut after price cut. It’s simply not sustainable for any farmer to continue to produce milk if they’re selling it at a loss.”

The plight of many farmers had become desperately serious, said Mr Raymond.

“With no sign that things will improve, we really need urgent action from retailers, the food service sector and processors to show commitment to British dairy farmers.”

Mr Raymond added: “I also want to see government agencies doing more to support the public procurement of British food.”

The summit follows a weekend that saw dairy cows led into an Asda supermarket in Staffordshire in protest at farmgate milk prices which have fallen below 20p/litre.

Farmers have also emptied supermarket shelves of milk and given it away to shoppers.

The dairy protests have dominated media headlines but other sectors are suffering too.

In Scotland, sheep producers are lucky to see £50 for each lamb – one of the lowest summer prices for years, with many retailers stocking supplies from New Zealand rather than Britain.

NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie said the problem of low prices was UK-wide – and meant farm unions needed to come up with collective answers for the future of the industry.

Farmers north of the border understood the concerns of producers elsewhere, said Mr Bowie. “It might not be long before Scottish farmers start to take action themselves.”

NFU Cymru president Stephen James warned that the situation was serious. “As the UK unions, we are looking for action to help alleviate the dire situation,” he said.

Ulster Farmers Union president Ian Marshall said: “It is essential that everyone in government and the supply chain plays their part in helping to urgently address these genuine and serious difficulties.”