Dairy storm intensifies as protests loom

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Milk Dairy farming Dairy

Farmers have faced increasing pressure as prices paid for their milk have plummeted
Farmers have faced increasing pressure as prices paid for their milk have plummeted
The dairy supply chain storm has intensified, with Müller appealing for planned protests over milk price cuts to be called off, while the dairy industry code faces increasing scrutiny.

Müller UK & Ireland Group today (October 6) called for “militant” ​group Farmers for Action (FFA) to curb plans to blockade British dairies in protest over recent cuts to farm gate milk prices.

Such a move would damage the trade, which was “already under severe pressure from steep falls in the value of commodities like cream and butter”​, Müller said in a statement.

‘Breaking records’

“Dairy farmers have been breaking all-time records in terms of milk production and the prices received for their milk,”​ said Ronald Kers, ceo at Müller UK & Ireland. “Farms in the UK have increased production by more than 1bn litres of milk this year – almost an extra litre for every 10 litres which they produced last year.

“Unfortunately this extra milk coupled with weaker demand has affected farm-gate milk prices. This is a worldwide phenomenon repeated in all major milk producing countries, and the imbalance between supply and demand has resulted in the value of dairy commodities reducing by more than 50% in just eight months.”

Most farmers accepted the inevitable knock-on effect on farm gate milk prices, said Kers, but the FFA did not. Its plans for blockades would add “substantial cost and makes it harder for processors to recover from the impact of this slump”​. Such protests would also hit consumers’ pockets, he said.

‘Substantial bill’

“The taxpaying public, which includes hard-working farmers, will be left to pick up a substantial bill for the policing of these illegal blockades and hundreds of dairy employees who simply want to do their jobs before going home to their families will again be affected.”

Kers’s comments came as Alex Fergusson, minister for the Scottish Parliament, delivered his much anticipated verdict on the Dairy Industry Code of Best Practice for Contractual Relations.

Fergusson, who was appointed as independent chair of the review into the code, said he believed the code was fit for purpose.

‘Code holds the key’

“I have spent a considerable amount of time appreciating and understanding the various differing relationships within the sector and the challenges they face. Having done so, I am strongly of the view that the code already holds the key to addressing many of the concerns that were raised with me.”

However, trade body Dairy UK said it believed differing levels of contractual notice periods continued to cause insecurity among suppliers and said it would keep pursuing the matter with farmers’ unions.

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