FFA has issued an ultimatum to supermarkets warning that unless there is a price rise they will face action in the run-up to Christmas.
Mr Handley told Farmers Weekly that if the whole industry got behind the warning then he thought it would succeed. Indeed, he claimed Tesco and Sainsbury’s had already indicated that if its processors suggested a cost of production increase then they would not stand in the way.
Mr Handley said he wanted to see the union bombarding retailers with the findings of the NFU/RABDF survey, which showed a 4p/litre gap between the price farmers are paid and what it costs them to produce milk. One retailer told FFA last week it had not seen the figures.
“Farmers went to the trouble of filling in the survey and now we have some figures they should be used everywhere,” he said.
Mr Handley – who ran for the NFU leadership in February – also called on union president Peter Kendall to talk more publicly about the lack of profitability in the milk sector, rather than issues such as climate change.
In reply, Mr Kendall said he was uncomfortable with farmers threatening to blockade retailers as his goal was long-term profitable solutions.
“I am not a big fan of alienating customers at this time of year. It starts to get the public thinking that farming is a problem again,” he said.
“I am very well aware of the pain in the dairy sector and I desparately want a rise in the milk price. What I am trying to achieve is sustainable, profitable supply chains and I think we’ve been relentless in trying to get the message across to retailers.”
Mr Kendall agreed that a quick fix was needed on price but argued that his strategy of talking about issues such as climate change was helping the industry as it was showing buyers that farmers had other options open to them.
“There is huge interest in this, as shown by the Stern report. I think we have the ability to use alternative uses of land to make people realise that dairy farmers aren’t operating on a sustainable basis.”
Mr Kendall insisted that all the supermarkets had now been shown the NFU/RABDF survey results, but said it would strengthen the argument if more dairy farmers sent in their figures. “We are not as an organisation doing nothing,” he said.