12 September 2000
Fuel blockades threaten dairy farms
by FWi staff
MILK collections from dairy farms could be jeopardised by escalating protests and blockades over the high price of fuel, companies have warned.
Fuel shortages are threatening to leave milk companies without enough diesel for their tanker lorries which collect supplies from dairy farmers.
Gary Elkington, logistics contract manager for Milk Link, said he thought that the company had enough fuel for its lorries only until the weekend.
“We are reviewing the situation every couple of hours at the moment. We are encouraging our drivers to fill up externally to safeguard our own fuel stocks.”
About 3500 dairy farmers are thought to supply Milk Link which is expected to broker approximately 1.6bn litres of milk to its customers this year.
However, the situation could become critical unless fuel deliveries to company depots resume within the next two days, said Mr Elkington.
Up to 3,000 petrol stations are thought to be closed as the protests entered their sixth day. Newspapers have reported panic buying of fuel at garages.
Jane Charlesworth, marketing manager for Zenith, reported no immediate problems. But she warned that the crisis could bite if the protests continued.
“Our priority is to get milk off farms but you have to look at this in the context of the whole chain and getting it to customers and processors.”
Zenith is a similar size to Milk Link. Along with Axis, the three co-operatives formed after the break-up of Milk Marque cater for about 10,000 farmers.
Jonathan Horrell, spokesman for Axis, said the company had been working with its contract hauliers who collect milk to ensure they had enough fuel.
“At the moment were managing it but there are so many unknowns in this that we cant go any further than to say that we are okay as we stand.”
Farmers and hauliers, including the pressure group Farmers For Action, have pledged to continue the protests until fuel prices are reduced.