Dairy farmers warn of more milk protests

Struggling dairy farmers say they will step up protests after receiving no guarantees of higher milk prices.

Lobby group Farmers for Action (FFA) renewed direct action in the week after the main dairy processors “ignored” its demand for a 2p/litre rise in the milk price by 1 September.

On Wednesday (4 September) farmers used tractors and other farm machinery to blockade Dairy Crest’s factory in Foston, Derbyshire

Then on Thursday (5 September) they blockaded a huge Morrisons distribution centre on the M5 in Somerset.

Dairy farmer and FFA chief executive David Handley said farmers would ramp up direct action this week, focusing on targets in the north of England and Scotland.

“We will be out again in the north of England and it looks likely there will be further activity in Scotland,” he confirmed.

Mr Handley said farmers would also be targeting Morrisons for a second time after the supermarket released a statement following the protests in which it gave no assurances of any price rises.

“Morrisons’ attitude is that farmers got a total of 4p/litre rise this year and they were lucky to get that,” said Mr Handley.

“So if they think they are going to get any more, they have got another thing coming.

“It looks like the processors have been telling us the truth about Morrisons. They have been brutal in the way that they have been treated.”

He added: “We have got a dairy market, both EU and global, which is at an all time high. What right has a major retailer like Morrisons got to stop farmers from getting that money?”

Mr Handley said the FFA was contemplating raising a complaint over Morrisons’ stance on milk prices with supermarket ombudsman Christine Tacon.

The NFU is not supporting direct action and is pursuing a policy of more negotiations between all parties.

NFU president Peter Kendall has expressed concerns about direct action and warned that the public could turn against farmers involved in the badger cull if the farming industry is involved in protests about milk prices.

He said: “I am nervous about how the public would perceive the NFU securing an injunction opposing various elements of the badger groups at a time when the farming industry is itself engaged in protests about milk prices.”

A Morrisons spokesman said: “We buy the milk sold in our stores directly from a processor, who set the price received by the farmer for each litre they produce.

“The increases we have made in the amount we pay to processors since last summer have resulted in a rise of more than 4p/litre for farmers, bringing milk prices to their highest level in recent years.”

However, a Farmers Weekly analysis of the milk market on Friday (30 August) found average farmgate milk prices well below where they should be given the improved performance of global dairy markets.

The Irish Dairy Board Index, which tracks actual dairy product sales, indicates farmers should be receiving 38-40c/litre (34p/litre).

Many dairy farmers are still struggling to pay bills and make any sort of profit after soaring feed prices and the wet and cold autumn and winter they experiences in 2012-13 saw farm incomes plummet.

FFA is calling on all major processors to increase the price of milk of a minimum of 33p/litre to cover costs, but preferably 35p/litre for all producers so they can make a little profit.

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