Arla hit by blockades

Supplies of milk and dairy products to supermarkets were disrupted once again last night as farmers mounted blockades of processing plants in the south of England, the Midlands and Scotland.

Around 60 dairy farmers blocked the gates at Arla Foods liquid plant at Sheffield Park in Sussex in protest at falling prices.

Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman and MP for Lewes was among the protestors.

“Prices to consumers have gone up over the past ten years, yet prices to farmers since 1995 have dropped by 28%,” he told FWi.

“Tesco is making £250,000 profit per hour, yet most dairy farmers are making a loss.

“There is something clearly awry in the operation of the market.”

Mr Baker called for the appointment of a food trade inspector within the Office of Fair Trading.

Failure to redress the balance would lead to further reductions in farmer numbers, increased dependence on imports and more power to the supermarkets.

Chris Freeman, who milks around 200 dairy cows in East Sussex, said that all he wanted was a price that would enable him to continue in farming.

“I bought a load of diesel last week. A year ago it cost me 19p/litre. Last week it came to 42.4p/litre.”

Despite rising costs, his milk price had dropped 0.35p/litre in July and he feared this week’s announcement of another cut by Wiseman would trigger further cuts by other buyers.

Disgruntled dairy farmers also stopped lorries entering or leaving Arla depots at Ashby in Leicestershire and Coatbridge in Lanarkshire on Thursday night.

“We are not going to tolerate these cuts,” said Farmers For Action chairman David Handley.

“Everything justifies a price rise. Our costs have gone up, supply is dropping on a daily basis and global demand for dairy produce is climbing.

“If the dairies do not address the problems why people are leaving the industry – namely lack of profit – we’ll soon be importing milk as has happened in the pig and poultry sector.”

John Cummings, FFA organiser in Scotland, told FWi farmers would be stepping up their action next week unless there was a clear sign of better prices.

“Wiseman will be a major target.”