Farmers turn to direct action following milk price cuts

Dairy farmers have been emptying supermarket shelves of milk after processors including co-operatives Firstmilk and Arla announced further cuts to milk prices. The Milk Trolley Challenge sees protesters...

Dairy farmers have been emptying supermarket shelves of milk after processors including co-operatives Firstmilk and Arla announced further cuts to milk prices. The Milk Trolley Challenge sees protesters remove all milk from shops including Morrisons and Lidl and either pay for it or leave the trollies at the checkout.

First Milk wrote to its 1,200 members on 31 July telling them their ‘A’ milk price would fall a further 0.5p per litre from 1 August. The capital contribution paid to the co-operative – extra money that comes off the milk cheque – will drop back from two pence per litre to half a penny, which will help soften the blow.

Arla, Britain’s biggest dairy co-op, will cut its price by 0.8 pence per litre, which will bring the standard litre price to 23.01p for its UK members. It costs between 30 and 32 pence to produce each litre of milk according to British dairy organisation AHDB Dairy. It says the average UK farmgate price was 24.06p per litre in May, a decrease of 25.4% on the price paid to farmers in May last year.

The actions have escalated since the news emerged. Some farmers have brought dairy cows to the protests, while other protesters have been using Facebook to arrange Milk Trolley Challenges in Clitheroe in Lancashire and Cheshire. Other hotspots include Gloucestershire. Scotland, Devon and Cornwall.

On Friday there was a co-ordinated, UK-wide day of action against Morrisons. National Farmers Union president Meurig Raymond said: “While Morrisons recently confirmed it is not accepting any further cost price decreases from their suppliers, I don’t feel that this goes far enough in these desperate times. I wish to see the retailer develop transparent pricing mechanisms, and long term relationships with their suppliers, that show support to the British dairy sector.

“We will be continuing discussions with Morrison’s in the coming weeks and we will keep pushing them to develop support mechanisms that work for them and the industry. Now we need to ensure that Morrisons’ performance on dairy delivers for British farmers as they already do on red meat and poultry.”

Darren Blackhurst, Morrisons group commercial director, said reduced global demand had created an oversupply of British milk, creating difficult conditions for many farmers.

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