British milk farmers demonstrate to cut raw milk prices

Hundreds of British milk farmers demonstrated outside Arla and Robert Wiseman Dairy plants over plans to cut prices to suppliers for raw milk.

Many farmers blockaded a Robert Wiseman plant near Bridgwater, in Somerset, while others protested outside Arla plants in Leeds and Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire.

An Arla spokesperson confirmed that the protestors disrupted the milk distribution.

Demonstrations were also taking place at a Morrisons distribution centre neat Bridgwater and at another in Ashford, in Kent because of low retailer milk pricing.

Farmers for Action (FFA) – the group behind the protests – have met with representatives from the Robert Wiseman Dairies in order to set a better and much improved price.

David Handley, the chairman of the FFA, said that more protests will be more likely to happen if talks are not successful.

He said: It’s got to a point where it feels like we’re talking to a brick wall. They will not just accept that there is enough money in the dairy supply chain to share.

“So we decided that if nothing had changed by Thursday, someone would be targeted. We aren’t going to lie down and take it. We’ve got a meeting with Robert Wiseman Dairies but we are still waiting on a meeting with Arla”.

Handley also said that milk processors and retailers share between 55p and 60p per litre – a margin the farmers want a share of.

“We aren’t being greedy; we just want our fair share of the money in the supply chain,” he added.

However, he said that if nothing is achieved during the meeting the protests could continue.

He continued: “There is a possibility that we will be out tonight, but first we will wait and see the outcome of the meeting. The plan from then on will be to negotiate over the weekend and into next week. If we feel that we aren’t getting anywhere, then we’ll be back protesting”.

Arla and Robert Wiseman both said that they are in no position, at the moment, to fund an improved milk price.

An Arla spokesperson said: “Unless the returns are there in the market place, we don’t have the money to pay the farmers”.

A statement from Robert Wiseman said: “We fully understand the strength of feeling amongst dairy producers and continue to engage with those with an interest in the dairy supply chain.

“It is our hope that the market for liquid milk and bulk cream which is at the core of this issue will quickly find a balance which will allow us to return improved prices to farmers”.

Clive Black, industry analyst for Shore Capital, said negotiations between the farmers and the processors will be difficult because “everyone in the UK liquid milk chain is also hurting to some degree”.

He said: “Liquid dairy processors are barely profitable, if at all at present. Whilst not always the flavour of the month for many in the farming community supermarket margins are returns are also in decline”.

The cause has been back by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and High Fearnley-Whittingstall who urged the public to boycott some supermarkets.

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