MILK PROCESSORS and co-ops have until the end of the month to secure price rises if they are to be taken seriously, say industry leaders.

Gwyn Jones, NFU dairy board chairman, said he was convinced most were pushing for extra cash, but progress was painfully slow.

“Surely if they are working as hard as they say they are we should be seeing some results soon. We can’t be negotiating for ever more.”

However, David Handley of Farmers for Action said he wasn‘t convinced that the industry was trying hard enough.

“For once I‘m not blaming retailers. I‘ve been talking to them since Christmas and, shown the justification, they say they’ve got no problems.

“But if people don’t ask for increases they‘re not going to offer them.”

Mr Handley said if milk cheques did not rise by the end of the month, he was prepared to start naming the chief executives he reckoned were to blame.

The discussions are centred around persuading retailers that prices need to rise 1.6p/litre in line with the extra costs of production on dairy units.

Every processor and co-op contacted by FARMERS WEEKLY insisted that there had been no let up in efforts and discussions with customers were ongoing.

But most were not  keen to reveal how much progress had been made or when farmers might see any results.

Arthur Reeves, manager of direct supplies at Dairy Crest, said negotiations were tough and all of the supermarkets were “looking over their shoulders” to see how their competitors would react.

A spokesman for First Milk said the co-op had sent letters outlining the extra costs to all its customers a few weeks ago and the general response had been supportive.