FFA urged to 'stop and think' ahead of Müller Wiseman milk price protest

By Mark ASTLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Farmers for Action (FFA) has vowed today not to create blockades, as it has done during previous demonstrations.
Farmers for Action (FFA) has vowed today not to create blockades, as it has done during previous demonstrations.

Related tags: Milk price, Dairy farming, Dairy, Milk, British dairy farmers

Müller Wiseman Dairies has urged Farmers for Action (FFA) to "stop and think" about the damage its planned milk price protests could have on the sector.

In a statement released this morning, Ronald Kers, CEO, Müller UK and Ireland, said FFA plans to launch a fresh wave of milk price protests "could be disastrous"​ for the British agricultural industry.

FFA has called on members to gather outside Müller Wiseman's Market Drayton plant in Shropshire tonight to protest sector-wide milk price reductions.

Britain's four largest dairy processors - Müller Wiseman, Arla Foods, Dairy Crest, and First Milk - last week announced a reduction in the price paid to suppliers for raw milk.

Blaming "very high levels of milk production coupled with weaker demand for dairy commodities"​ Müller Wiseman cut its standard farm gate milk price from 29p per litre to 27.1p per litre.

While "disappointed" ​the majority of dairy farmers "accept that this is the nature of the milk market," ​Kers' statement continued.

Speaking with DairyReporter.com, David Handley, chairman, FFA, argued that as around 85% of milk produced in the UK is used domestically, the revised milk prices, which fall below production costs, cannot be justified.

He claims to have "caught them with their trousers down."

"They can't prove that their milk price reduction are down to a global downturn when 85% of milk is sold domestically," ​said Handley.

"What we see is that this is an opportunity for milk processors, aided by the global downturn, to drive prices down."

"Group of militants"

FFA took to the streets - targeting processors and retailers - in 2012 and 2013 to protest previous milk price reductions. Protesters often created blockades, with tractors and other vehicles, to disrupt the flow of traffic in and out of processing and distribution sites.

Branding FFA a "group of militants"​, Kers said that by "unlawfully halting operations and vehicle movements in and out of dairies"​ protesters will merely make it "harder for processors to recover from the impact of this slump."

"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."

"These militants seem intent on destroying this and making the UK an unattractive prospect for investment," ​said Kers.

FFA insists, however, that no blockades will be created tonight.

"Insulting"

Responding, Handley branded Kers' comments "insulting."

"He calls us a group of militants,"​ said Handley. "We've never been militant, we've never broken the law."

"That is not the behaviour of a militant group."

"British dairy farmers do not want to break the law. British dairy farmers just want a sustainable milk price."

Concluding, Handley urged dairy processors to take a "carrot approach"​ to the situation.

“I've been around horses all my life. The best way to get a horse to do something is feed it a carrot, not hit it with a stick. It would be better for Muller Wiseman and other dairy processors to give us the carrot and not the stick,"​ he said.

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