Hundreds expected at milk price protests


Hundreds of dairy farmers are expected to turn out for three protests against low milk prices.


Due to take place on Thursday (19 July), the demonstrations come after Farmers For Action pledged to ratchet up the pressure on retailers and dairy processors.


Details were published on the Farmers For Action website on Wednesday (18 July). Protestors will gather in south-west England, the Midlands and Yorkshire.


Farmers will meet at the Sedgemoor Livestock Centre (Somerset); Hallmark Tractors, Ashby de la Zouch (Leicestershire); and The Bridge Inn, near Wetherby (Yorkshire).


After meeting, farmers will then travel to the protest points – likely to be retail distribution centres or milk processing plants.


Farmers are calling for the full reversal of cuts that will see up to 4p per litre wiped off farmgate milk prices by 1 August.


The demonstrations promise to be the biggest protests since more than 2,500 dairy farmers gathered for an emergency summit in London last Wednesday (11 July).


Farmers For Action has called for protestors to abide by a code of conduct.


“It is imperative that the action be peaceful and to our best ability within the law as this is just the start,” it said.


The protests come as industry body DairyCo published figures suggesting recent farmgate price cuts were evidence of a continued squeeze on processor gross margins.


In the past, increases in processor costs had been matched with rising retail prices, it said. But there was no such increase in the liquid milk market during 2011/12.


Average retail prices dropped to 55.5ppl in the year to March 2012 – their lowest level for seven years, according to DairyCo’s Supply Chain Margins report.


“Unless there is significant change in the structure of the liquid milk to alter the balance of power, it is likely that processors’ gross margins will remain under pressure, said DairyCo analyst Patty Clayton.


“This reinforces the importance of the current industry activity on improving milk contracts and the negotiating power of farmers. It also identifies the need to understand dairy markets.”


Farmgate prices would continue to be driven by wholesale markets for dairy products, with demand for milk from the various product segments driven by their profitability, said Ms Clayton.


It was important that farmers aligned their individual circumstances with the right milk buyers and understood their position in the market, she added.

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