Farmers pledge to continue milk price campaign

Northern Ireland farmers held this protest over the gap between the money they receive and the price customers pay.
Northern Ireland farmers held this protest over the gap between the money they receive and the price customers pay.
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Farmers behind recent protests over the crisis affecting the dairy industry have vowed to continue campaigning for better prices after two of the country’s leading milk processors bowed to pressure and abandoned plans to make drastic cuts in the amount they pay for milk.

Robert Wiseman Dairy and Leeds-based Arla Foods both announced yesterday they would scrap their proposed price reductions due to take effect next Wednesday, with fellow processor Dairy Crest having backtracked on its planned cuts the day before.

All three processors have been targeted with blockades and demonstrations by the Farmers for Action (FFA) group in recent weeks, with dairy farmers already reeling from price cuts made in June.

Asda’s Leeds base was targeted twice by protesters, as well as a Lidl supermarket in Catterick in North Yorkshire, with thousands more farmers taking part in demonstrations across the country.

However the FFA’s chairman David Handley said the announcement still does not go far enough, pointing out that many dairy farmers are still being paid a rate which barely meets or falls short of the cost of production.

Mr Handley said: “This sends a very strong message regarding unity in the dairy industry. The united coalition group together with united dairy farmers, supported by the media and general public, have taken us up the first step towards a sustainable dairy industry, for the future of the next generation of dairy farmers.”

The current state of the dairy industry has drawn widespread criticism, with celebrity chefs, MPs and the Archbishop of York all condemning low prices paid to farmers and the use by big retailers of milk as a loss leader

Mr Handley said the FFA group, along with other bodies representing producers, would meet early next week “to plan the next part of our strategy which is to find the money that was taken off dairy farmers in June”.

Supermarkets have born the brunt of the criticism for the crisis, with Asda, Morrisons and the Co-operative – all named by FFA as being the worst offenders for under-paying farmers – announcing earlier in the week that they would improve their rates, forcing processors to follow suit.

Ash Amirahmadi, Arla’s head of milk procurement, said: “I am pleased to confirm that Arla is in a position to maintain a standard litre price of 27 pence for non-aligned members of Arla Foods Milk Partnership. We have agreed a transparent reconciliation method with our customers and our supplying farmers to demonstrate that all of the money recovered from the marketplace has been paid out in full.”

NFU President Peter Kendall said the announcement was testament to the hard work put in from all concerned but urged further action towards a sustainable industry, warning “this can’t be a short-term fix”..

“I am immensely proud of what the coalition has achieved so far,” said Mr Kendall.

“We will continue working hard behind the scenes to ensure these first steps turn into a longer-term, sustainable milk price for all dairy farmers.

“So, for the coalition the work continues.

“I am conscious that the milk price cuts from June are still in place but rest assured we will continue in talks with the processors to work towards returning that lost money.”