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July 16, 2012

UK: Dairy farmers stage “spontaneous” protests

Protests have erupted outside Asda and Morrisons stores across the UK as dairy farmers attempt to highlight their claim the price they are paid for milk is below the cost of production.

Protests have erupted outside Morrisons and Asda stores across the UK as dairy farmers attempt to highlight their claim the price they are paid for milk is below the cost of production.

A spokesperson for the National Farmers Union told just-food this morning (16 July) that “a number” of protests sprang up “in various parts of the country” over the weekend.

These protests were not organised by the union but were a “spontaneous” outpouring of sentiment from small groups of farmers. The union is still in the process of collecting data on how many protests were staged around the UK.

Demonstrators are targeting Asda and Morrisons because the premium paid to farmers in their milk pools is not enough to raise the price of milk above the cost of production, the NFU said. The likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s operate a payment system that is linked to the cost of procution and – althought these companies are not “white knights” – this payment system for liquid milk does “work better”, a spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Asda told just-food last week the firm is “proud” of its relationship with its farmers and is currently in pricing negotiations. Morrisons was not available for comment.

Dairy farming businesses in the UK have been hit by recent reductions to the farmgate milk price. In May and June Dairy Crest, Robert Wiseman and Arla Foods slashed the base price they pay farmers for milk by two pence per litre. Then, earlier this month the country’s largest dairy firms announced another round of cuts, which look set to take the price farmers are paid for milk down by a further 1.65-2ppl.

Farming organisations organised a demonstration in London last week that saw more than 2,500 dairy farmers descend on the capital to protest against these cuts.

Addressing the meeting, Meurig Raymond, deputy president of the National Farmers Union said the price being paid for milk meant dairy farming was not a sustainable business.

“The cuts [in May and June] were cuts to the bone and beyond. They were farmers’ investment, margin and profit… These latest cuts [to come into effect 1 August] are the feed bill, the wages, the housekeeping. These cuts will take us into massive loss-making territory,” he said.

The NFU and other farming organisations are demanding that the price cuts are reversed by 1 August or further demonstration will take place. 

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