Milk protests loom as FFA calls crisis meetings

Farmers For Action is planning protests in the coming weeks after more milk processors announced heavy price cuts.

As of Wednesday night (3 September), 820 farmers had voted for action on the group’s website.

Next week (11 September), FFA is holding an open meeting at Frome livestock market in Somerset to hear farmers’ opinions and another meeting will be held in the West Midlands the week after.

See also: First Milk cuts prices by 3p/litre

FFA chairman David Handley said he felt the decision to act had almost been made already, but the target would have to be considered carefully.

“There is only one option coming and that is going to be protest,” he said. “It is such a serious issue. I do not think we need to rush into it.”

In the past fortnight, the big four milk processors have announced cuts of more than a penny.

On 1 September, co-operative First Milk dropped its October prices by 3p to 25.1p/litre (liquid) and 26.6p/litre (manufacturing).

NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison has been in Brussels lobbying for extension of the EU’s emergency measures to help the dairy sector cope with the effects of Russia’s import ban.

“Depressed prices now are a result of wider global factors, which have depressed global commodity values,” he said.

 Tough times ahead as price cuts bite   

Martin Wheelton
Arla Milk Link supplier, milks 750 cows at Mill End Farm, Macclesfield, Cheshire 


Harriet Besent
Arla Milk Link supplier, milks 200 cows at Higher Melcombe Farm, Dorchester, Dorset


Robert Craig
First Milk and Arla supplier, milks 900 cows at Dolphenby and Cairnhead Farms, Cumbria

“Feed costs are on their way down, but if you take a 30% hit on milk price, you’re going to feel it.

“We’re going to have to buckle down on costs over the winter and put capital expenditure on hold. It’s getting to a point where small movements will make a large difference – another 2p drop will be a really hard knock.

“But this isn’t about processors being greedy, which it has been in the past, so I don’t think we should be picketing.

“We do need to keep a bit of pressure on to say that we’re 
still here and we need to stay 
in business.”

“I don’t know my October milk price – they never seem to tell us in advance. Price cuts mean it’s going to be quite tough.

“Feed prices are lower, but I’ve already booked my blend for the winter. And we’ve got an arable enterprise, so lower prices aren’t all good.

“It’s impossible to plan for your business. Hopefully it won’t be like 2011; that would kill us off.

“This time it is a world issue and the Russian ban won’t be helping. We’ve only protested once before and I’m not sure how much difference it makes. It’s easy to blame the supermarkets.”

“With Arla we’re on a basket contract at 33p/litre, but that takes quite a tumble in October.

“With First Milk we’re on a solids contract at 34.5p/litre, and won’t suffer all of the 3p drop in their standard litre.

“We’ve produced about two-thirds of our milk at the higher prices because of seasonal calving, so we won’t be affected as much as herds that are summer or autumn calving.

“The problem is supply and demand, so protesting is a waste of time. The market is what the market is and you can’t buck that.”