Minister calls milk summit with supermarkets

Farm minister Jim Paice is meeting supermarket bosses to discuss ways of ensuring the long term sustainability of Britain’s dairy industry.

The meetings follow three weeks of protests by farmers – including a week of direct action targeting dairy processors and retailers – over low milk prices.

Mr Paice will meet senior management representatives from Asda, Morrisons and the Co-operative on Wednesday (25 July). He will also speak to Iceland.

It comes the day after Mr Paice met Aldi, and the Food and Drink Federation, which represents food manufacturers. Other meetings will be arranged when possible.

“We’ve now brokered an agreement which, once finalised, will make contracts between farmers and milk processors fairer and more transparent,” said Mr Paice.

“But we need real changes across the industry because as things stand dairy farmers are going to seriously struggle in the future.

“That’s why I’m going to be sitting down with retailers and manufacturers to emphasise just how crucial it is to take a more long term approach.

“The conversation will focus on issues such as the effects of their extremely competitive deals on the rest of the supply chain, and what could be done better to source and support British produce.”

Hundreds of farmers were out again in force on Tuesday night (24 July).

Dairy processing plants were blockaded at Leeds, Market Drayton and Leicestershire. An Asda depot was also blockaded at the Magna Park retail distribution centre, Lutterworth.

Farmers protesting at the Arla processing plant at Leeds sat in the road when the police threatened to arrest them in a bid to break up the demonstration.

Earlier, Asda has responded to pressure by announcing a 2p per litre farmgate milk price increase which will take effect on 1 August.

NFU President Peter Kendall said the increase from Asda should now pave the way for the three big milk processors to do the right thing.

“Today sees Asda joining Morrisons and the Co-operative in moving their milk price in the right direction,” he said.

“They are all now committed to paying a price that covers their farmers cost of production. This is good news but the work is far from over.

Mr Kendall said many farmers would remain unaffected by price increases from supermarkets.

“Many don’t supply milk to a dedicated retailer milk pool and so behind the scenes we have started to tackle the discount retailers and food service companies,” he said.

“We will focus the spotlight on any company that is exploiting farmers and paying crazy low prices for their milk.”

The coming week would see farm leaders pulling out all of the stops to ensure the processors in the middle of the supply chain reversed price cuts by 1 August.

“This now has to be our focus. Those August cuts by the three large processors, Dairy Crest, Wisemans/Muller and Arla must not happen.”

For more on milk price cuts

See our dedicated page on the milk price crisis