Farmers threaten to pour milk down the drain

Producers object to sharp cuts in price they get

Thousands of litres of milk could be poured down the drain this summer in protest at deep cuts to the price paid to farmers. More than 1,000 farmers are expected to attend a meeting in central London this week to agree a battle plan after the amount paid by some processors fell to 6p a litre less than it costs to produce.

Farmers were hit with a 2p cut in June, with just four days' notice while still being tied into a contract for a year. Another cut of up to 2p is being made in August.

With floods hitting large parts of the country, farmers are being forced to keep cattle in barns, eating feed which would normally have been saved for the winter, driving up costs.

David Handley, the chairman of the Farmers for Action campaign group, said farmers were so desperate they were prepared to destroy supplies.

"If by August 1 we have not got anywhere, disruption of the milk supply chain will take place. In the last resort, dairy farmers will be willing to let their milk go down the drain until something changes. That's a very sad thing to have to do, but I think we have got public support."

Mr Handley warned supplies to the Olympic Games and related events could be disrupted, adding: "The opening ceremony is promoting the countryside. Yet the Government isn't listening to us, just using us as a marketing opportunity."

The three big milk processors, who supply the catering and food production industries as well as supermarkets and convenience stores, have all cut the prices they pay farmers. Robert Wiseman Dairies blamed "the substantially lower returns from the markets" for its decision to cut its price by 1.7p to 24.73p.

A spokesman for Arla Foods, which is cutting its price by 2p to 24.5p, defended the move. A spokesman said: "We fully understand that emotions are high and doing all we can to get better prices." Dairy Crest is cutting its price by 1.65p to 24.92p.

The average farm produces one million litres of milk a year. The price paid to farmers varies. Sainsbury's and Tesco guarantee to meet the cost of production, and pay around 30p. But others only promise a small premium on the producers' base price, which means Morrisons pays 25.92p, Co-op pays 25.73p and Asda pays 25.5p. Farmers without supermarket deals will be hardest hit.

Britain is a nation of fresh milk lovers, but a trend to semi-skimmed has caused a headache for processors who have to remove the cream. A quarter of it finds its way on to supermarket shelves in pots, but the rest is sold on the commodity markets and exported where the price is dictated by global demand.

Whole milk now accounts for just a fifth of fresh milk sales.

Peter Kendall, the president of the National Farmers' Union, said: "A lot of farmers feel very uneasy about throwing milk away, but I can see some holding back supplies. We need to see these price cuts reversed. Dairy is the biggest agricultural sector. It is the backbone of rural communities. We are going to see irreparable damage done."

Jim Paice, the farming minister, has insisted the Government cannot interfere in the market, but he will attend Wednesday's meeting.

He said the price cuts were "a heavy blow" for the industry and has promised to "bang heads together" to strengthen the industry's voluntary code of conduct.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot