Farmers from all over the country headed down to London yesterday to join a mass demonstration against another round of cuts to the farmgate price of milk.
Price cuts of up to two pence per litre were introduced initially by three leading processors - Robert Wiseman Dairies, Arla Foods UK and Dairy Crest – but others including Yorkshire local processor Paynes Dairies are now following suit.
The result is that the majority of dairy farmers are now being expected to continue producing milk for as much as 5 pence per litre below the cost of production.
Robert Walker, of Peak District Dairy in Tideswell, said: “If farmers can’t produce milk at a reasonable price they are going to go out of business.
“Then the producers won’t have any milk to sell, so who will lose out in the end?”
The move has been condemned by the NFU and others across the industry, who have jointly demanded an immediate reversal of the announced cuts.
Chairman of the North East dairy board, David Shaw, said the cuts would force an already depleted industry, struggling to cope with increasing costs and falling returns, into uncharted territory.
He said: “We have been inundated with calls from desperate farmers who have no idea how they are going to cope with these losses.
“Dairy farmers want to be here for the long term, want to invest in their businesses to deliver the highest possible animal welfare and a superb product for the public, but without reasonable returns such investment is impossible.”
Bob Lomas, who owns a Lydgate Farm near Wirksworth, explained that one of the reasons for the pressure on farmers and producers is that supermarkets are selling milk as a ‘loss leader’.
Bob said: “They do it to tempt people into the shops so they buy the other things available.
“Supermarkets say they can’t afford to sell milk at a higher price, but if they’re going to use our product as a loss leader they shouldn’t expect farmers to foot the bill.”
Robert Walker added that it’s ‘win, win, win’ for the supermarkets who also put the milk at the back of their stores so customers have to pass other products on the way to pick up a pint.
He added: “There’s not a lot of profit on milk at the best of times and if the price of milk is going down it’s going the wrong way.
If this issue is affecting you contact the NFU on 01904 451550.