Protest leaders battling for higher milk prices held a “tough” meeting with dairy giant Arla after targeting the processor’s plant at Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire.
Campaigners from Farmers For Action met Arla representatives in Birmingham on Monday (15 July). It followed a series of milk price protests that blockaded the Arla Foods plant at Ashby and Müller Wiseman Dairies at Market Drayton, Shropshire.
“We went in at 12 noon and it was a tough meeting,” said Farmers For Action chairman David Handley. “But we got our case across for an increase in the milk price from 1 August and Arla will take that message back to their senior management in Denmark.”
Farmers were absolutely justified in their protesting, said Mr Handley. In one breath, processors were telling farmers there was no money available for a milk price rise. Yet in the next they were saying they were prepared to match rises by other processors.
Farmers blockaded the Arla plant at Ashby last Friday (12 July). Muller Wiseman Dairies was blockaded at Market Drayton on Sunday (14 July). Both protests ended peacefully, with farmers saying they had made their point, but would return if necessary.
Both Arla and Muller Wiseman have signed up to the code of practice aimed at guaranteeing a fair milk price for farmers. But Farmers For Action says the farmgate milk price is still too low, arguing that the voluntary code only kicks in when there is a price change.
Arla Foods said it was a 100% farmer-owned cooperative, owned by 12,400 European dairy farmers, 1,600 of whom were British. Arla said it had significantly increased its milk price to farmers during 2013 – including a 1.7p/litre rise to 31.91p/litre from 27 May.
“Founded on co-operative principles, our strategy is to deliver for our farmers and we are paying one of the highest standard litre milk prices, not only in the UK, but in Europe,” said an Arla statement sent to Farmers Weekly.
A spokesman for Müller Wiseman Dairies said: “We question the logic of targeting a company that offers a choice of leading contracts, one of which has a direct link to returns from commodity markets and was among the first to comply with the voluntary code.”
“It shouldn’t be forgotten that over and above this, Müller Wiseman producers are entitled to valuable incentive payments. All of this has been developed with the Müller Wiseman Milk Group board members, who are elected to represent the dairy farmers who supply us.
“To simply ignore or try to undermine this constructive relationship is counter-productive and damaging.”