Dairy farmers step up milk price protests

Dairy farmers say they will step up the pressure for higher milk prices after a series of protests that saw producers blockade processing plants.

Farmers descended on Muller Wiseman at Market Drayton, Shropshire, on Sunday (14 July) after targeting the Arla Foods plant at Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire, on Friday (12 July).

“The simple fact is they are not paying enough money for milk,” said Farmers For Action spokesman Paul Rowbottom. “The situation is ridiculous.”

The Arla protest lasted some three or four hours before dairy farmers called it off, saying they had made their point, but would return if necessary.

A similar scenario was played out at Muller Wiseman.

Both Arla and Muller Wiseman have signed up to the recently introduced code of practice aimed at securing a fair milk price for farmers.

But Mr Rowbottom said the farmgate milk price was still too low and the code of practice only kicked in when there was a price change.

“If the price goes up or down, the code means you are within your legal rights to hand in your notice after a 90-day period,” Mr Rowbottom told Farmers Weekly.

“But if the price is unchanged and you want to get out, you have to give 12 months notice.”

The code was a good tool, but it did nothing unless there was a price change. Meanwhile, many dairy farmers were struggling to meet their costs of production.

“Don’t get me wrong, the code is a good starting place,” said Mr Rowbottom.

“But if you are a farmer not covering your costs and no-one is talking about changing the price, the code isn’t going to help you one bit.”

Farmers For Action leaders were expected to meet Arla milk buyer representatives to discuss the situation on Monday (15 July).

In a statement, Arla Foods said it was a 100% farmer-owned cooperative, owned by 12,400 European dairy farmers, 1,600 of whom were British.

“Founded on co-operative principles, our strategy is to deliver for our farmers and we are paying one of the highest standard litre milk prices, not only in the UK, but in Europe,” it said.

Arla said it had significantly increased its milk price to farmers during 2013 – including a 1.7p/litre rise to 31.91p/litre from 27 May.

Muller Wiseman is expected to send Farmers Weekly a statement later.

More on this topic

Milk prices predicted to improve for year ahead