Speaking ahead of the milk price protest in London today (July 11), Terry Jones, communications director of the Food and Drink Federation, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “By and large, food manufacturers are not big buyers of liquid milk.
“The products they do buy are, for the most part, not manufactured in the UK as the primary processors of milk have tended to focus on other commodities.”
But, the BRC's food director, Andrew Opie, claimed food manufacturers should do more to support UK dairy farmers. “The pressure should be on other big buyers of milk – food manufacturers [dairy processors] and the public sector — to show the same strong support for the industry that retailers do,” said Opie.
“The truth is, the farmers in the best position are often those in supermarket supply chains.”
Contracts between retailers and their dairy processors are overseen by the Groceries Supply Code of Practice and retailers choose to go further, ensuring the price paid to farmers in their supply chains supports their businesses, said Opie.
A spokesman for Wiseman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “We fully understand the strength of feeling among dairy producers but we are not in a position to fund a milk price at the level it was at prior to the collapse in the commodity value of cream.
“We continue to seek operating efficiencies to reduce our own costs and it is our hope that the market at the core of this issue will quickly find a balance that allows us to return an improved milk price.”
Meanwhile, thousands of furious dairy producers are set to converge on Westminster today to protest about low milk prices.
National Farmers Union (NFU) dairy chairman Mansel Raymond said: “Today’s meeting, which is one of the biggest crisis meetings in the NFU’s history, will give those in the industry a chance to share their concerns and commit to work together to prevent the demise of the British dairy industry.
“The strength of feeling is immense – farmers realise that this is a fight for survival, not only long term, but for many to survive this winter.”
Producers claim they will lose on average £50,000 a year because of a drop of nearly 4p a litre in the price they receive from milk processing firms.
Food and farming minister Jim Paice told the BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today that recent price cuts imposed "a massive burden for the vast majority of dairy farmers".
Anger and frustration
Last week a joint statement from the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru, Tenant Farmers Association and Farmers for Action warned: “The catastrophic cuts will drive farmers out of the dairy industry and we are united in our demand for an immediate reversal of recent and planned cuts."
Writer Bill Bryson and former TV Dragon’s Den consultant Deborah Meaden have pledged their support for a joint campaign by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) designed to tackle the “chronic failures of the UK milk market”.
Bill Bryson, CPRE vice president, said: “If you do a fair day's work you deserve fair pay for what you produce. But, for too long, dairy farmers have been at the mercy of opportunistic price cuts that have driven more and more of them out of business.”
The organisations want:
- Consumers to buy milk only from retailers that pay dairy farmers a fair price for their milk. Currently, Asda, Morrisons, and the Co-Op do not have pricing mechanisms that adequately reflect the cost of milk production.
- Milk processors and dairies (including Arla, Dairy Crest and Robert Wiseman Dairies) to commit to introducing a pricing mechanism that recognises the cost of production.
- The government to ensure that the Groceries Code Adjudicator has the necessary powers to investigate contracts between farmers, retailers and processors to ensure farmers are being treated fairly.
Source: joint statement from CPRE and WSPA.
Don’t miss our photo gallery of milk protests at the Great Yorkshire Show. Click here to view.