Farmers protest at Inverness store opening

Forty dairy farmers and their families took their fight for fair milk prices to the opening of a new multimillion pound Asda superstore in Inverness.

The placard-carrying group, led by Nairn farmer Steven Innes who produces 15million litres a year from 1,700 cows, handed out leaflets to consumers on Monday (23 July).

Mr Innes, who farms at Drumduan, Auldearn, and at Feddan, near Forres, declared the protest, backed by NFU Scotland and Farmers For Action, a success.

“Shoppers have been very, very supportive,” added Mr Innes, whose wife, Maureen, and her cousin, Suzanne Munro, sat in a bath filled with milk outside the new store.

Mrs Munro added: “Farmers cannot be running at a loss.”

Among farmers joining the protest was Roddy Catto, the acting chairman of the Wiseman Milk Partnership.

He warned other retailers selling milk at a discount that they would, in the next week, be a target for Scottish farmers.

“If they want to discount milk then I don’t have a problem with that. But they should not be doing it in a way which devalues our industry and instead taking any discounts they want to apply out of their own pockets. They should not be expecting the farmer, or the milk industry, to pay for these promotions.”

One shopper branded Asda’s stance on farmgate milk prices disgraceful, adding they should be receiving a rate which reflected the effort, work and the hours they put in.

The woman, who declined to reveal her name, said: “The cost of everything they use is going up, the feed and fertiliser. Someone is doing the sums wrong somewhere.”

Asda’s east of Scotland regional manager, Allan Millar, said he was sympathetic to the farmers’ plight, but said the retailer had last week doubled to 2p/litre the premium it paid farmers for milk. That would, on average, give its direct supplier £30,000 of extra income.

He knew farmers were under pressure, adding that Scottish suppliers were important to the business which spent £1billion annually buying food and drink north of the border.

It wanted to help its suppliers grow, but was unable to answer how dairy farmers could increase the scale of their operations when they were producing milk at a loss.

That was a question for Asda’s buyers to respond to, he added.

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See our dedicated page on the milk crisis