Jim Paice

Farm minister Jim Paice is to hold a dairy summit with industry leaders following milk price cuts that will wipe more than £50,000 off the average dairy farm income.

NFU leaders and DEFRA officials are in talks to schedule a meeting at the earliest opportunity after four major processors dropped the milk price up to 2p per litre.

A summit is likely to be held as soon as next week, Farmers Weekly can reveal.

News of the meeting came after more than 500 producers gathered for an emergency meeting at the Staffordshire Showground.

The milk producers heard calls for direct action over dairy prices during a heated meeting at the Staffordshire Showground on Wednesday (4 July).

NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond said he was overwhelmed by the number of farmers who turned up to the meeting, held with less than 24 hours notice.

“It just goes to show the seriousness of the situation,” he told Farmers Weekly.

“If this is not a wake-up call, I don’t know what is,” said Mr Raymond. “People are at the end of their tether.” The constant price squeeze from the top [of the supply chain] down to the producer had to stop, he added.

Farm leaders are due to hold urgent talks with dairy buyers and retailers in a bid to secure a better price for milk producers.

The NFU is asking farmers to show their support by protesting outside while NFU representatives are leading the negotiations inside.

“First of all we have to have unity among dairy farmers – and I know we have that from what we’ve seen today,” said Mr Raymond. “But we also have to have unity within the industry and public support because the majority of people want British milk.”

Asked whether he would support calls by some farmers to dump milk, Mr Raymond said he didn’t want to go there. But he added: “I can’t rule anything in and I can’t rule anything out. People are at the end of their tether.”

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