Dairy farm problems
Cash-strapped dairy farmers are calling again for better treatment from the big processing dairies.
In the summer they were in open revolt over the poor payments they received from the dairies, and a high-profile campaign, including picketing outside big factories, prevented further threatened cuts in payments.
Now they have called for greater transparency on payments and pricing policy from the processors' milk buyers – and for more to be done to help ease the crisis in the dairy industry.
The Dairy Coalition, the industry group that emerged from the July protests, says that having met processors, retailers, milkmen and dairy farmers, the clear emerging theme is a lack of transparency about where money is going and who is getting what from the market.
Members of the Dairy Coalition met to call for transparent milk pricing policies, clearer country-of-origin labelling and further payment rises for struggling dairy farmers – to ensure the industry can move towards a sustainable future.
Speaking after the meeting David Handley, chairman of the group Farmers for Action, said: "Just last week I met representatives of the doorstep milk delivery industry, who have experienced significant price inflation."
Mr Handley, who originates from Camelford in North Cornwall, added: "I've met retailers who claim to be paying more for milk and processors who claim their margins are non-existent. But at the end of the day, farmers are barely 0.5p per litre better off than six months ago, yet their costs of production have risen by at least 2ppl."
Mansel Raymond, National Farmers' Union dairy board chairman, said: "All we want is a fair deal for the consumer, the farmers and those in between. As a coalition we shall be closely monitoring dairy markets in the coming weeks. We need to know we are getting our fair share out of the market.
"Dairy farmers are telling us they are on borrowed time – costs are spiralling, banks are becoming less understanding and all the while we have the health and welfare of cows to maintain through what is due to be a financially very difficult winter.
"Our members are telling us that no milk buyer can be allowed to get away with holding back cash owed to farmers. The bills are mounting and patience is fraying. Whether on a liquid or cheese contract, dairy farmers need to know that improvements in the market are immediately translated into farm gate price rises."
Producers are looking for a minimum payment of 30p per litre at present, rising during the winter as feed and fuel costs continue to rise. Payments currently spread from 32.25p to 25.57p.
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