Agriculture: Campaign to boost prices for dairy farmers

A CAMPAIGN to improve prices paid to Britain's struggling dairy farmers is to be launched later this year after supermarkets were accused of "bully-boy tactics" in dealing with milk processors.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) will launch the Great Milk Debate in November to highlight the "critical situation" it says the dairy sector is facing.

The NFU is launching the campaign alongside the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) and calling for action to safeguard the industry's long-term future.

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Politicians, representatives from major retailers and milk processors will be invited to the Great Milk Debate – an update of 2007's event which saw thousands of people across the country campaign for improvements in the British dairy industry.

NFU president Peter Kendall said: "This campaign can't come at a more urgent time when we know retailers are aggressively cutting the cost prices paid to processors. It is only a matter of time before this short-term and short-sighted approach affects dairy farmers throughout the country, at a time when many are considering their future in the industry.

"The NFU has already highlighted the need for an ombudsman to help scrutinise some of these damaging and unfair practices which threaten the long-term future of the dairy industry. Farmers will be increasingly angry as they watch milk sellers allow themselves to be influenced by bully-boy tactics.

"They will be even more frustrated by the fact that they know, as our Great Milk Robbery investigation revealed, millions of pounds seen in improved commodity markets has not been passed back to them."

Mr Kendall acknowledged that a great deal of progress had made in terms of retailers establishing dedicated relationships with the dairy farmers who supply them with liquid milk but said there was still much more to be done.

NFWI chairman Ruth Bond said: "WI members got behind the UK's dairy farmers in their thousands when we last joined forces for the Great Milk Debate. However, they are increasingly concerned that momentum has been lost and many farmers are still struggling to make a decent living.

"We will be calling on retailers, processors and the government to play their part in ensuring there is a long-term future for British milk."

A British Retail Consortium spokesman said: "Most dairy farmer do not sell milk directly to supermarkets, but supermarkets are increasingly working with specific dedicated dairy farms. It is very clear from figures that the top 10 best paid dairy contracts are paid by supermarkets and that supermarkets are paying the best rates for milk."