Change of tactics in battle for fair milk prices

Dairy farmers will step up their fight for fair milk prices by urging shoppers to boycott supermarkets that sell their milk at rock-bottom prices.

Lobby group Farmers For Action (FFA) is preparing to launch a second phase of direct action this week by staging protests outside supermarket stores that sell their milk below the cost of production.

See also: Dairy farmers threaten more protests over Iceland’s 89p milk

FFA is producing leaflets to hand to shoppers to inform them about the recent milk price cuts and explain why they believe their protests are necessary.

The leaflets will detail the importance to dairy farmers of receiving a sustainable price for their milk and warn that the “end of the dairy industry, means the end of your milk”.

Many dairy farmers have seen farmgate milk prices plunge from 34p/litre six months ago to about 26p/litre from November.

FFA chairman David Handley said: “We’ll be stepping up our action, but this time we’ll be putting the smart outfits on and going to the front of stores to tell consumers about how the dairy industry is being treated.

“Morrisons, the Co-Op and Iceland are firmly within our sights. There will be a combination of protests against distribution centres and outside stores.”

Hundreds of FFA campaigners are expected to come together for co-ordinated protests against Iceland over the next few days.

Dairy farmers plan to blockade Iceland’s three main distribution centres in Livingston, Swindon and Warrington. Distribution centres and stores in north Wales will also be targeted.

On Monday (20 October), Mr Handley held talks with Iceland’s chief executive Malcolm Walker and buying director Nigel Broadhurst to try to persuade the retailer to reverse its decision to cut the retail price of milk to 89p.

Mr Handley said Iceland bosses blamed competition from German discounters and told him that 89p milk had resulted in a “massive turnaround of customers entering our stores”.

A spokesman for Iceland Foods said: “Iceland has not reduced the price it pays for its milk. The company has chosen to sell its milk for less than it pays for it in order to create a point of difference in an intensely competitive marketplace.”

NFU national dairy board chairman Rob Harrison said: “The NFU is very unhappy about supermarkets selling milk as a loss leader. It devalues the product and has a big impact on grocery sales and how consumers perceive the value of dairy.

“Our focus is on the farmer and farmgate price. If processors can put mechanisms in place to ensure farmers are appropriately rewarded for their toils, that’s the important thing.”

Meanwhile, Arla Foods has launched a consumer-facing campaign called “Support Our Farmers” that encourages shoppers to buy their branded products to help struggling dairy farmers.