Twitter blast over milk price squeeze

A disgruntled farmer sent a public message to his milk buyer asking how producers are expected to cope with price cuts when input costs are going through the roof.

Pete Ledbury received a letter informing him of a £10/tonne hike in feed costs just days after Robert Wiseman Dairies slashed his milk price by 2p per litre.

Mr Ledbury, who milks 100 cows in Somerset, used the micro-blogging website Twitter to send a copy of the letter from his feed supplier to Robert Wiseman Dairies.

His message was posted so anyone – including members of the public could read the letter – as well as Mr Ledbury’s accompanying comments.

“Here’s a letter I received this morning,” Mr Ledbury wrote. “How we can take a reduction in milk price is beyond me.”

The letter – warning of extreme volatility in raw material markets – was written by Ian Simpson, national sales manager of feed company NWF Agriculture.

“All the commodities we use in the manufacture of animal feed have seen huge price increases in the past quarter,” Mr Simpson wrote.

“Wheat is nearly 25% higher than it was four months ago, likewise soya meal and rapseed meal are now both 33% higher.”

As a result of the sharp increases in raw materials, Mr Simpson says NWF finished product prices will increase by £10 per tonne from 1 May 2012.

“You can be assured that we are working hard to keep our costs as low as possible,” he adds.

Robert Wiseman Dairies hasn’t yet used Twitter to respond publicly to Mr Ledbury’s comments. But it has tweeted a link to a press release on the company’s website.

The reduction was Robert Wiseman Dairies first farm-gate milk price cut for more than three years, the press release says.

“The move reflects the continuing and sustained impact of a challenging market environment and more recently a collapse in the value of bulk cream,” it adds.

A slide in the value of cream and the lack of relief from other market related pressures meant it was no longer possible to sustain the Wiseman milk price at current levels.