Farmers’ actions avert UK milk price reduction

A massive campaign has forced British milk processors to abandon this month’s planned farm-gate price cut that would have forced cash-strapped UK farmers further into debt.

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Arla, First Milk, Dairy Crest and Robert Wiseman Dairy, now owned by the German company Müller, abandoned their planned price cuts of between 1,7p/l (R0,22) to 2p/l (R0,26) which would have been implemented on 1 August. Arla cited “an unprecedented two weeks of activity within the industry” as the reason for it to back down. National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Peter Kendall said the reversals are testament to the hard work of a coalition of rural groups and massive support from people up and down the country.

The coalition involved the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Wales, the Tenant Farmers’ Association, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers and Farmers For Action. The campaign involved Farmers For Action organising dairy producers to use their tractors to blockade production facilities and even supermarket outlets. The protests resulted in some processing plants closing, leaving empty shelves in many stores.

In addition to the major dairy processors rescinding their planned milk price cuts, in a little over two weeks supermarkets have agreed to pay their farmers a “price that covers their costs of production,” said Kendall, adding that this will bring some relief to dairy farmers. “Arla Foods is able to confirm that having recovered money from its customers, and by increasing its non-aligned premium, it will no longer have to implement the planned August reduction in its milk price,” said the company in a statement.

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Dairy Crest said its price reduction was being delayed for two months. This will give it and its farmers “time to continue to work together to seek solutions to the current difficulties that are facing the dairy sector and are affecting farmers and processors alike,” it said. Wiseman said it had noted the exceptional circumstances facing the supply chain and the need for urgent and significant support. “We are confident that we can work with our customers and farmers to address the obvious challenges that exist,” it said.