Protests by UK farmers over the price of milk last night (2 August) targeted discount retailers Iceland Foods and Farmfoods.
Around 150 farmers gathered at Farmfoods’ premises in Birmingham yesterday evening, with another 300 targeting Iceland’s Warrington depot in the north of the UK.
Farmers protests in the last fortnight succeeded in getting processors to postpone or decide against plans to lower their milk prices on 1 August. However, farmers are trying to claw back cuts reductions made in May and are targeting retailers across the industry.
In a Facebook post ahead of the protest, Farmers for Action said: “We intend, along with our partners, to flush out the money that has obviously gone in to someone else’s bank account and we will use every available avenue to achieve this by the deadline of September 1st 2012. To the middle ground, discounters and food service industry, you too need to come clean very quickly to avoid disruption to your business.”
Farmers have protested about the price they receive for milk for over two weeks. The protests were prompted by plans by the UK’s largest processors to cut prices from 1 August. Demonstrations were held at processor and retail sites.
Last week, Arla Foods, Robert Wiseman Dairies and First Milk withdrew plans to lower prices. However, Farmers For Action chairman David Handley said “nobody yet has come up with the money that was taken away in May and June”.
He told just-food today Farmers for Action is now “visiting everyone again” to ensure the retailers are aware the farmers are “alive and kicking”. He added: “We’re not going to stop until all the monies are being returned”.
Handley said Iceland has agreed to talks on Monday. He insisted the retailer has “no argument with us”.
“They have not benefited from any monies that have been taken off farmers. We have got a meeting with them on Monday when we are going to look at that information,” he said.
However, he added the group had less success with Farmfoods: “They basically stuck their two fingers in the air and said they buy their milk from milk processors and they’re not particularly bothered about dairy farmers. All I can assure you is there will be a change of attitude there very quickly.”
He added that the focus will now be on Farmfoods until an agreement is reached. “We’ve got a policy that if people start this nonsense, we take the focus off everyone else and we concentrate on one until they agree that we’ve got a right to make a living as much as they have. It’s all about greed.”
Handley said the retailers will continue to be targeted, however. Earlier this week he told just-food that the big four [retailers] are “not out of the woods by a long way”.
“They’ve got to prove in independent auditing that they did not have any of that money in May,” he said yesterday. “If they can prove that then we focus back again on the processors and they’ve got to tell us who had it. Somebody had it … and it’s going to mean more protests.”