Farmers warn Britain faces prospect of milk shortages


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The Independent Online

Britain faces the prospect of milk shortages within two weeks, farmers have warned as they vowed renewed protests against plummeting prices they say are forcing them out of business. Leaders of the group Farmers for Action said they would continue blockading dairy plants last night after talks with milk processors broke down.

A plant in Worcestershire belonging to the Robert Wiseman Dairies firm, as well as one in Derbyshire belonging to the Dairy Crest processing firm, were due to be targeted by milk strikers.

“They need a little bit more of what they had on Thursday night,” said David Handley yesterday, ahead of the blockade. He said that during talks with Robert Wiseman Dairies, farmers were told that any extra money the processing firm could get would “stay within their business, not go to farmers”.

“It beggars belief, we asked if they would accept the fact that we could not cover the cost of producing the milk but they didn’t want to talk about it. So, we will be back out protesting in the same manner as we did on Thursday night,” he said.

Mr Handley added that there was “no question” of milk being poured down the drain yet but he said: “The blockades are likely to cause gaps on supermarket shelves by the first couple of days of August. That is not what we want but we are being pushed to this action.”

Farmers were given a small boost when the under-fire supermarket chain the Co-Op agreed to up its price to 29p per litre, which would negate the 2p fall due to come in on 1 August. However, there were questions over whether the extra money would ever find its way to farmers after the insistence of Robert Wiseman Dairies’- a middle-man in the process - that it would not pass on any increased revenues.

Steve Murrells, chief executive of Co-operative Food, said: “We have a track record of supporting British farmers, and we recognise the importance of ensuring a long-term, sustainable future for British dairy farmers. We are taking this action to help alleviate the immediate pressures that farmers within the Co-operative Dairy Group are facing.

A spokesman for Defra said that the protests were “not the way forward” and called on the farmers, supermarkets and processors to negotiate a settlement.