UK milk supplier Robert Wiseman Dairies has insisted it will look to bring more transparency to how it determines the price it pays farmers after a tense summer in the sector.
The company has launched plans to work with representatives from the Wiseman Milk Partnership, a group of farmers that supply milk to the business, “to deliver transparency in how farmgate milk prices are determined”.
The so-called Wisemilk initiative has been launched following a summer that saw farmers blockaded processor and retail sites – including Wiseman depots – over planned cuts to the price of milk.
Wiseman was one of a number of UK dairy processors that planned to cut the price it paid for milk on 1 August. However, following the protests, Wiseman, owned by German dairy giant Muller, shelved plans to lower prices.
“There is a shared belief that steps can be taken to remove the tensions and lack of clarity that exist in the supply chain at the moment. It’s time to start the process of rebuilding trust and we will work diligently and constructively in order to achieve this end,” Wiseman milk procurement director Pete Nicholson said. “We cannot ignore the ups and downs of a market, but we have to strengthen the basis of the partnership we have with dairy farmers who supply us.”
Four farmers from the Wiseman Milk Partnership and directors from Wiseman will work on the Wisemilk initiative, which is expected to take three months to complete. Independent consultants can be called to advise on the process, Wiseman said.
Roddy Catto, chairman of the Wiseman Milk Partnership, said he “welcomed” the move. He said he hoped the initiative would introduce “more transparency and honesty” in how prices are set.
However, he added: “There is a lot of work to do if dairy farmers are to have the basis from which they can move forward, invest and see a future in dairying. Confidence has been badly shaken and there remains a great deal of anger amongst dairy producers who rightly feel that they are being asked to do the impossible – produce milk for a market that right now is not returning enough to cover costs.”