Dairy farmers have protested outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to demand a date for the Scottish Milk Summit which will discuss ways to secure the future of the country’s remaining milk producers.

About 60 dairy farmers, 30 MSPs and European MSP Alyn Smith attended the event, organised jointly by Dairy Farmers of Scotland and NFU Scotland, as part of a European dairy day of action.

It was designed to highlight that producers’ milk prices had fallen by 20% since the start of 2009 and that confidence among Scottish dairy producers was low, while supermarket milk and cheese prices had increase.

NFU Scotland vice-president Allan Bowie told MSPs that the summit promised by the Scottish government would require the full involvement of each individual major retailer, all milk processors operating in Scotland, dairy farmers, consumers and the government itself.

“We expect an announcement on a summit very shortly. Dairy farmers in Scotland need a real signal that their produce is valued or Scotland’s dairy farming sector runs the risk of dribbling down the sink,” he said.

Over the past 10 years, 32% of Scotland’s dairy farms have quit milk production.

According to dairy consultant Promar, it costs a dairy farmer 26.93p to produce a litre of milk.

Recent price drops by major milk buyers has reduced the price that a farmer receives from his milk purchaser to an average of 24p/litre with many paid as low as 20p.

Alyn Smith, Scotland’s only full member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, told MSPs that the milk supply chain had reached a stage where it was crippling the industry.

He added: “While the consumer is paying more, our dairy farmers are receiving less which results in less investment into the industry, putting their livelihoods at even greater disadvantage.”