Dairy farmers are preparing to take further direct action against supermarkets and processors after receiving no assurances of an increase in milk prices.
Farmers for Action (FFA) said it was planning more protests against Morrisons after the retailer failed to respond to a letter calling for recent spikes in global dairy markets to be passed on to farmers.
About 100 farmers used 20 tractors and farm vehicles to blockade a Morrisons depot by the M5 in Somerset last Thursday (5 September).
During the protests, the FFA handed supermarket bosses a letter, addressed to its chief executive Dalton Philips, stating that most farmers had received no increases in their milk prices over the last three months – despite global markets being at an “all-time high”.
“Morrisons has not replied to our letter, so as far as we are concerned there’s no change,” said Mr Handley.
“If they have not replied by the end of the week, we will have no option but to go back. Next time, we will visit two areas of the country so they can see the strength of feeling.”
A Morrisons spokesman said: “We buy the milk sold in our stores directly from a processor, who sets the price received by the farmer for each litre they produce.
“The increases we have made in the amount we pay to processors since last summer have resulted in a rise of more than 4p/litre for farmers, bringing milk prices to their highest level in recent years.”
Over the next few days, dairy farmers are also planning to target some of the main milk processors in the Midlands.
The FFA is calling on major processors and supermarkets to work together to increase the farmgate price of milk to 35p/litre for all farmers so they can “make a little bit of profit”.
Currently, farmers are being paid an average of 31p/litre for their milk – with some receiving as little as 27-28p/litre – which was not enough to cover costs, the FFA said.
Dairy analyst Ian Potter said: “There is definitely some pain out there and some farmers are really struggling to make ends meet.
“As things stand, all the evidence points towards the fact that farmers should be having price increases – and somebody, perhaps Dairy Co, should be getting stuck into the information.
“The best thing Morrisons could do is sit down and talk to Handley and co, provided the processors allow them to. My worry is that it all gets out of hand and some retailers decide to set the rottweilers out on them (farmers).
“I would rather see proper dialogue with people that know the numbers. If they go for injunctions and the like, farmers will dig their heels in.”
The NFU is not supporting direct action and said it would prefer to settle any differences between farmers, processors and supermarkets over milk prices by talks.