Pressure group calls for Wiseman to pass on milk price rises

Pressure group Farmers for Action has lambasted Robert Wiseman Dairies for failing to pass improved returns to farmers in full.

David Handley, FFA chairman, accused Wiseman of failing to pass on the full 1.3p/litre price increase Sainsbury’s added to its milk in March, which was earmarked for milk producers.

Farmers in Wiseman’s Sainsbury’s pool had received a 1p/litre increase. But Dairy Crest, which also sells milk to the retailer, passed on the full amount to its producers.

“Their operating profit is 2.39p/litre, and we have dairy producers losing nearly 3p/litre. Surely there is no justification in retaining the 0.3p/litre,” Mr Handley said.

Members of FFA and the Women’s Institute will lobby customers at six Sainsbury’s stores across the country next week to call for the supermarket to ask Wiseman to pay producers the full amount, he added.

“In view of Wiseman’s results, there is every reason to apply more pressure and ask why it has been allowed to do this.

“We want to let consumers know they were asked to pay more for their milk so farmers could get paid more, but their money isn’t going where it should,” he said.

In an earlier statement to Farmers Weekly, Emma Metcalf-King, Sainsbury’s milk buyer, said: “We agreed an increase of 1.3p in the price of milk that we buy and asked the processors that this be passed back in full to the farmers, thus having an impact on the farm-gate price.”

Wiseman said it was committed to paying dairy farmers one of the best prices in the UK, but needed to cover its extra costs.

“We announced early on that we would be working with the Robert Wiseman Milk Partnership to seek additional reserves to cover their and our additional costs,” a spokesman said.

“There seems to be an assumption that additional costs facing farmers aren’t facing everyone else in the supply chain.

“But we would ask any of our critics to make a comparison with our competitors. Recognition needs to be given that we are paying Sainsbury’s Dairy Direct group members more than Dairy Crest’s group members.”