Another voice added to the disquiet over milk prices

DISCONTENT at milk prices bubbled up from a new direction this week.

The Wiseman Milk Partnership, representing suppliers to the biggest operator in the business, added its voice to those warning of crisis.

The Dairy Crest farmers' organisation, Dairy Crest Direct, caused a stir last week by becoming the first to go public, as opposed to applauding silently when NFU or Farmers For Action raises the issue. And NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond said: "I have been concerned at the lack of visible challenge to the situation. I look forward to others."

In response, Iain Smith, chairman of the Wiseman farmers, wrote to all newspapers saying: "We have played our part as Robert Wiseman Dairies has grown to the extent that it supplies a third of all fresh milk consumed in Britain.

"Now we call on the company and its customers to do their bit.

"This winter, cost of production on-farm has increased to beyond 27 pence per litre and is still rising.

Wiseman producers fortunate enough to be part of supermarket supply groups have been cushoned, but those who get Wiseman's standard price (24.72 ppl) are making a loss.

"This is unsustainable and unreasonable.

"The status quo is not an option.

"Without an immediate price increase, standard litre producers have only two options – continue to watch their losses grow or give up."

A spokesman for the dairy commented: "Each part of the supply chain needs to be able to make a return on their investment.

"We recognise the increased input costs being borne by Wiseman Milk Group producers and are doing our utmost to address concerns at a time when Wiseman is also managing increased costs and intense competition to supply customers.

"Relative to our competitors, we are well placed to withstand this difficult period and we remain confident of long-term prospects."

CW 15/1/11