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UK dairy processors facing fresh FFA milk price protests

By Mark Astley , 18-Feb-2013
Last updated on 18-Feb-2013 at 13:09 GMT

Farmers for Action (FFA) has threatened a fresh wave of processor-targeted demonstrations across the UK if efforts are not made to increase farm gate milk prices.

FFA chairman David Handley told DairyReporter.com that a price “in excess of 32 pence per litre” is required to meet further increases in the cost of production. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), farm gate milk prices averaged at 30.08 pence per litre (ppl) in December 2012.

British dairy farmers will take to the streets by March 2013 if there “has been no movement" from daiy processors, Handley claimed.

Last year, FFA targeted a number of UK-based dairy processors – including Arla Foods, Robert Wiseman Dairies (now Müller Wiseman Dairies), and Dairy Crest – in protest to planned milk price reductions.

The under pressure processors eventually postponed the planned price cuts, and relations appeared to improve. The relationship has, however, begun to sour, said Handley.

FGMP “still not covering costs”

“Last year, we had moderate success – processors reversed their planned price cuts and we were given some price increases,” said Handley. “Up to Christmas, it looked promising.”

“Then all of sudden, processors have gone back to their old regime. They are either pocketing the money to fund their own investments, or giving a larger share to the retailer.”

Despite FFA efforts in 2012, British dairy farmers are only slightly better off per litre, Handley added.

“Looking at farm gate milk prices in 2012 and January 2013, we are only about 0.65 pence per litre better off than we were 12 months ago,” he said.

“The price we are paid is still not covering costs.”

“Prices need to be in excess of 32 pence per litre to meet the cost of production,” he added.

Dairy farmers “support” action

If no improvements are made, Arla Foods, Dairy Crest, and Müller Wiseman Dairies look likely to face a second year of protests and blockades.  

“You can only target those who are responsible for paying. All we are getting at the moment is promises for tomorrow,” said Handley.

“I would think that by end of March. If there has been no movement from the processors, I know where a number of dairy farmers will be.”

In recent weeks, FFA has been travelling to meet dairy farmers to discuss the current pricing issue. After gaging response at these meetings, Handley expects strong support for any future demonstrations.

“They were asked at the meetings whether they would protest if it became necessary to again,” he said. “I am yet to come out of a meeting where we haven’t received 100% support.”

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