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UK Farmers Holding an ‘Urgent Summit’ Over Milk Prices
August 10, 2015

Farming unions from across the UK are holding an “urgent summit” to discuss milk prices, following widespread protests.

Some farmers are being paid less than the cost of production, the National Farmers’ Union says.

Protests have included removing large quantities of milk cartons from shops and blockading distribution centres.

Supermarket chain Morrisons will meet farming industry leaders on Tuesday to discuss the price row.

Both meetings will include the UK’s four main farming unions: the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union.

‘Do not alienate’

“The situation many of our members are experiencing has become a crisis,” NFU president Meurig Raymond said.

“In dairy, many milk producers have seen price cut after price cut.

“It’s simply not sustainable for any farmer to continue to produce milk if they’re selling it at a loss.”

On Sunday two cows were taken down the aisles of a supermarket in Staffordshire as part of a protest by about 70 farmers to raise awareness about the situation.

Asked by the BBC if this protest was “responsible”, Mr Raymond said: “I urge my fellow farmers, do not alienate our British customers at this given time.

“Keeping the British consumers on side is so important.”

‘Tough situation’

Arla, Britain’s biggest milk co-operative, previously announced a price cut of 0.8p per litre – taking the standard litre price to 23.01p for its UK members.

Meanwhile, British dairy organisation AHDB Dairy said the the average UK farm gate price was 24.06p per litre in May, a decrease of a quarter over 12 months.

Farmers estimate that it costs between 30 and 32 pence to produce each litre of milk.

Protesters taking part in the so-called “Milk Trolley Challenge” have been removing all cartons of milk from shops including Morrisons and Lidl before paying for it and taking it away or dumping it at the checkout.

Victoria Bristol, 29, of Clitheroe in Lancashire comes from a family who have been dairy farmers for 55 years.

She told BBC News that if prices do not increase soon, her family will not be able to continue to produce milk after Christmas.

She said: “The public need to get behind the farmers and support their local produce. But they also need to make their feelings known to the supermarkets, who are responsible for driving the price down.”

She said her father Andrew, 56, and brother William, 27, who are both farmers, had not drawn a wage for themselves so far this year.

“This is make or break time for farmers’ livelihoods,” she added.

Patrick Holden, who is a farmer and founder of the Sustainable Food Trust, has appealed to the industry to introduce a new labelling system so shoppers can choose fairly produced milk and dairy products.

He told the BBC News Channel: “There is only one way out of this in my opinion and that is if consumers have the chance to identify milk which is produced to a fair price and a fair treatment for the animals on the supermarket shelves.

“Any agreement that is made between the leaders today is going to be swept downstream by the market forces unless the public can exercise their buying power in the shops.”

‘Do not buy directly’

Ahead of the talks on Tuesday, a spokesman for Morrisons said: “We want to reiterate that we are not seeking any further reductions in milk prices and we will continue our talks with the NFU, in a constructive manner, to finalise our agreed plan of action.”

A spokesman for Aldi said: “We purchase milk from three processors in the UK and do not buy directly from farmers. The price we pay from milk has remained consistently above the farm gate price and we have not reduced the amount we pay our processors.”

Meanwhile, Lidl released a statement which said: “As a responsible retailer, we work very closely with farm assurance schemes such as Red Tractor and RSPCA Freedom Food, which heavily champion British farming.

“We are proud to say that 100% of our fresh milk is British, and that 100% of our own label fresh beef, pork, and chicken are also British.”

A spokeswoman for Arla said the co-operative was “acutely aware” of the difficulties farmers are facing.

“We are doing everything possible to help our farmer owners to navigate through this increasingly tough situation, in the best possible way,” she said.

Meanwhile, farmers from Wales have also joined the crisis summit to discuss the price they get for their lamb, which they say has reached a critically low level.

They claim their share of lamb sold on the shelves has dropped from 60% to 50% in the last year.


Source – BBC News



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