Dairy protest dedicated to farm leader

Farmers blockaded one of Britain’s biggest dairy processors as protests over low milk prices were stepped up ahead of Christmas.

Police were in attendance as protestors descended on the Muller Wiseman plant at Droitwich Spa on Wednesday (19 December).

Lorries backed up outside as they were prevented from entering the processing plant, which has been targeted by dairy farmers since the summer.

The latest protest comes days after the death of SOS Dairy campaigner and Farmers For Action vice-chairman Andrew Hemming.

Mr Hemming, a West Midlands dairy farmer who had led earlier protests at Droitwich, died suddenly on Saturday (15 December). He was 54.

Farmers who turned out for the latest demonstration said it was a tribute to Mr Hemming, who had fought hard on behalf of milk producers.

One tweeted: “Let’s make Andrew proud. Think this is the time to press the message home. Looking forward to seeing you all out in his memory.”

Another added: “Remember Andrew and what he has done for us all over the past few years.”

Although farmgate milk prices have risen in recent months, any increase has been more than offset by soaring input costs, including for feed.

Some producers are receiving 26-27p for milk that costs 32p to produce.

The situation has been exacerbated by the aftermath of a wet summer that has seen shortages of silage, maize forage and winter bedding.

Many producers will be rethinking their business strategies for the future, including, in some cases, exiting the sector, says the Outlook 2013 report by farm consultants Andersons.

“The full effects on many businesses are only now becoming apparent, as poor-quality silage, along with high purchased feed costs, contribute to an expensive winter,” it says.

“The wider supply chain needs to recognise the pressures farmers are under if they want to ensure an adequate supply of raw material.”

Many growers experienced their first ever maize failure this autumn, the report adds. Replacing the shortfall in forage will be particularly costly, it warns.

An increase in concentrate prices of £60-80/t alone will add about 2.5p to 3p/litre to milk production costs, says the document.

A voluntary code of practice to oversee the relationship between milk producers and dairy processors was agreed during the summer.

But many producers remain locked into contracts that force them to produce milk at a loss.

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