Dairy farmers have renewed their protests over concerns about payments for their produce, calling for an immediate rise in the milk price.
About 100 farmers gathered at Dairy Crest’s factory in Foston, Derbyshire, on Wednesday night (4 September).
They used tractors and other farm vehicles to block a road near the factory and prevent deliveries to and from the processing plant.
The farmers stood united and ate British ice cream as a mark of solidarity over the foods they help to produce – and to show their support for British food.
Farmers For Action (FFA), which led the protests, said direct action was necessary after the main dairy processors “ignored” a 1 September deadline they had set demanding an increase in farmgate milk prices. And farmers had also received no guarantees that prices would rise in October.
Dairy farmers are being paid 31p/litre on average for their milk, but FFA says the markets suggest they should be paid at least 2p/litre more at the moment. Some dairy farmers are still being paid as little as 27-28p/litre.
FFA is calling on all major processors to increase the price of milk of a minimum of 33p/litre to cover costs, but preferably 35p/litre for all producers so they can make a little profit.
Many dairy farmers are still struggling to pay bills and make any sort of profit after soaring feed prices and the wet and cold autumn and winter they experiences in 2012-13 saw farm incomes plummet.
Dairy farmer Paul Rowbottom, FFA spokesman for Derbyshire and Staffordshire, said direct action was the only way that processors appeared to listen to farmers’ demands.
“Dairy farmers are in the same place as they were last year – nothing has changed. The only difference is the weather feels better and farmers feel better, but they cannot pay their bills,” he said.
“Most people have a lot more debt than they had this time last year. If they raised the milk price to 35p/litre it would really help get rid of some of this debt.
“It’s not a nice position for farmers to be in – working hard seven days a week there should be a bit of profit.”
The FFA warned that further protests would take place this weekend against dairy processors and supermarkets.
The NFU said it did not support direct action and urged further negotiations between dairy farmers and milk processors to settle the dispute.
Rob Newbery, NFU chief dairy adviser, added: “As far as we are concerned, negotiations between farmer representatives and the major dairy companies are still continuing for milk price rises for October deliveries.”
A Dairy Crest spokeswoman said: “Dairy Crest has been working hard to try and retain confidence in the dairy sector and protect milk supplies. We aim to pay a fair market-related price for milk and continue to work closely with our farmers to produce the best quality products for our customers and consumers in the most efficient way.
“Over the past year we have increased the price we pay our farmers to reflect their higher costs, fully signed up to the government’s voluntary code of practice and brought out a formula-based milk contract. Going forward, it is important that everyone in the supply chain pulls together to ensure the sustainability of the UK dairy sector.”
A Farmers Weekly analysis of the milk market last Friday (30 August) found average farmgate milk prices well below where they should be given the improved performance of global dairy markets.
The Irish Dairy Board Index, which tracks actual dairy product sales, indicates farmers should be receiving 38-40c/litre (34p/litre).