Farmers empty supermarket shelves of milk to protest price cuts with 'Milk Trolley Challenge'

Branches of Morrisons, Lidl, Tesco and Asda have been targeted as the price paid for milk drops further below the cost of production

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Tuesday 04 August 2015 14:58 BST

Cuts to the price paid for milk have caused a new wave of protests from dairy farmers, who have been sweeping though supermarkets and clearing the shelves of milk cartons in what has been dubbed the “Milk Trolley Challenge”.

Farmers have targeted supermarkets up and down the country in their protests over the past week, in which they either pay for the trolleys of milk and take them away or leave them at the checkout.

Branches of Morrisons, Tesco, Lidl and Asda have all been targeted since Arla, the UK’s biggest milk co-operative, announced the latest price cut of 0.8p per litre of milk.

The price cut means the standard price paid for milk per litre, or “farmgate”, for Arla members will now be 23.01p, despite farmers protests that it costs between 30p and 32p to produce each litre.

Videos have been made of the supermarkets “getting milked,” with reports of the demonstrations being carried out in Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Devon, Northern Ireland and now west Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, the price paid for milk has dipped to an average of 19p per litre, while dairy farmers in Scotland claim many farms are on the brink of bankruptcy while 19 farms have closed this year alone, the BBC reports.

Figures from British dairy organisation AHDB Dairy show that over the past year, the farmgate has dropped by 25.4 per cent per litre. The average UK farmgate was 24.06p per litre in May - well below the cost of production.

Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: “The market situation in dairy, lamb and many other products is driving farming families to a desperate state with returns from the market failing to cover costs of production.

”Farmers have worked very hard to gain the respect and support of the public for great British food - now farmers simply want and need a fair return for years' of investment.

He said the NFU supports protests that have a “proper target and a clear objective,” but believes the best way for farmers to get a fairer return would be “for consumers to demand British food”.

Darren Blackhurst, Morrisons Group Commercial Director, said reduced global demand had created an oversupply of British milk, creating “difficult conditions” for many dairy farmers.

“At a constructive meeting on Wednesday with the NFU Dairy Board Chairman, we confirmed that Morrisons is not accepting any further cost price decreases from our suppliers driven by the falling farm gate milk price,” he added.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Through our Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group we ensure we pay a fair price based on the cost of production. We are proud of what we have achieved with our dairy farmers through the TSDG since its inception in 2007, including consistently paying one of the highest prices in the industry for our milk.”

A spokeswoman for Lidl said the supermarket worked closely with farm assurance schemes such as Red Tractor and RSPCA Freedom Food to champion British farming.

“Naturally, we are concerned about the challenges faced by British farmers currently as a result of volatility in global market conditions,” she added.

“As such, we have pricing mechanisms in place which are monitored at regular intervals during the contract period to reflect market fluctuations and to ensure that our farmers continue to be paid a fair and accurate market price.

”Our cost prices are in no way linked to our retail prices and any reductions in retail prices are absorbed by Lidl.“

Asda did not respond to a request for comment.

Additional reporting by PA

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