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Farmers to continue milk price protests

Published 11/08/2015

NFU president Meurig Raymond, right, talks to Tenant Farmers Association chief executive George Dunn, left, and Farmers for Action chairman David Handley in Solihull
NFU president Meurig Raymond, right, talks to Tenant Farmers Association chief executive George Dunn, left, and Farmers for Action chairman David Handley in Solihull
Farmers estimate that it costs between 30 and 32p to produce a litre of milk but the average price paid across the UK is 23.66p
Morrisons has been one of the main targets for protesters from the farming industry
Falling milk prices have left some farmers in despair

Farmers have not ruled out the possibility of continued protests against other supermarkets after Morrisons announced the premium from a new milk brand will go directly to the dairy industry.

The Bradford-based chain has been one of the main targets for frustrated farmers who have stripped milk from the shelves before dumping it or giving it away for free.

The product will be launched in October and will be sold at a 10p per litre premium to the standard Morrison's price.

David Handley, of Farmers For Action, said that although direct action would no longer be taken against Morrisons, it would be maintained against other supermarkets.

Mr Handley has helped orchestrate eye-catching protests which have seen cows invading supermarket dairy aisles up and down the country said Morrisons' "small step" was welcome, but protests would continue.

He added: "You will see activity continuing and we'll try and put a few new twists in it.

"We may even take an elephant to a supermarket, but we haven't worked out yet where we're going to get that from.

"We'll need to find a very big wheelbarrow to follow it around as well."

Leaders from the crisis-hit industry met Morrisons bosses in an attempt to tackle falling milk prices which, the National Farmers Union (NFU) says, will lead to dairy farmers being forced to leave the industry in the next few weeks as they struggle to pay bills and face rising debts.

Afterwards the supermarket's corporate services director Martyn Jones said: "We will be launching a milk brand that allows customers to pay a little more if they want to support British farmers.

"Called Morrisons Milk for Farmers, this product will sell at a 10p per litre premium to the standard Morrisons milk price. "

He added that all of the premium would go back to the farmers that supplied its processor, Arla.

"Consumers can choose whether they want to pay more to support British dairy.

"A recent survey found that more than half of customers said they would be willing to do so," said Mr Jones.

Morrisons also announced it did not take the reward of any further farm-gate price decreases from its suppliers Arla and Dairycrest, and has told the processors to pass on any benefit to the farmers.

Asked whether it would extend the idea to cheese, butter, yoghurt or other dairy products on its shelves, Mr Jones replied: "Ultimately, the selling will tell the story."

While welcoming the move, the NFU and Tenant Farmers Association called for other retailers to step forward saying the industry was in an "unsustainable" position without change.

The four main farming unions, the NFU, the NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union, held an emergency summit in London on Monday to develop an action plan to tackle falling milk, lamb and arable prices.

There have been days of protests by farmers including milk trolley challenges, blockades at distribution centres and even bringing cattle into supermarkets.

Farmers estimate that it costs between 30 and 32p to produce a litre of milk but the average price paid across the UK is 23.66p - following a drop of 25% in a year.

Tesco and Sainsburys have so far ruled out a similar move to Morrisons' saying that they pay a fair price based on the cost of production.

A Tesco spokesman said: "Through our Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group we ensure we pay a fair price based on the cost of production. We are proud of what we have achieved with our dairy farmers through the TSDG since its inception in 2007, including consistently paying one of the highest prices in the industry for our milk."

While a spokesperson for Sainsburys commented: "Our retail price is not related to the price we pay our farmers. Our milk prices are competitive for our customers, while also paying our dedicated dairy farmers a fair price that protects them against volatile markets.

"Following a majority vote, our Dairy Group farmers benefit from a cost of production model - this sets a price that directly reflects their costs on the farm, building in a profit, as well as rewarding outstanding animal welfare and environmental standards.

"This price is updated every three months to ensure a fair deal for the farmers involved."

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