A fresh wave of dairy protests could be held across the UK this autumn in a bid to expose the processors and retailers which are abusing the value of milk.
Farming organisations including Farmers For Action, the NFU and the Tenant Farmers Association said they would support direct action if it would help reverse the crisis in the dairy industry, which is losing about £3m every week.
Speaking at a meeting with hundreds of dairy farmers in Market Drayton on Thursday (16 July), Farmers for Action chairman David Handley said producers needed to be prepared to “rattle cages” to support the entire industry.
At a sometimes heated meeting, Mr Handley said farmers had sat back for too long and allowed liquid milk to become a devalued commodity product, and they needed to take action to take control.
“We think there is something we can do, but we need the help of everyone, not just dairy farmers,” he said. “We need all sectors to get involved because everyone’s feeling the pressure of prices.
“Firstly we need to get a campaign going where we are prepared to meet consumers and tell them our story. Secondly we need to rattle a few cages, and that means peaceful protest.”
Mr Handley said farmers would have to be patient before they would be called on to protest, but in the meantime they could look at their production profiles to see where they could make changes to their supplies.
“I’m not suggesting that we dump milk, but all we need to do is get the message out there that we have had enough and that we are going to tighten things up,” he said.
“The markets are saturated and we need to change that, but until we work together to take the industry forward then we have a problem.”
Rob Harrison, NFU dairy board chairman, agreed that producers had to get better at working together so that processors and retailers were less able to dictate prices.
“It’s a fundamental problem of the UK dairy market that when prices drop we continue to produce more,” he said.
“We know there is more milk than the local market can take, so we need to do something about that. We can only grow at the same time as processing capacity and market demand.
“We need to talk to milk buyers about their plans,” he added. “If processors want stable supplies then we have to have stable prices.
“To produce what the market wants we need to align market requirements with what we produce. That’s about clear communication between farmers, processors and consumers. We need to know what we are aiming for.”