Dairy farmers had used tractors and trailers to blockade the Robert Wiseman dairy in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, and a plant at Foston in Derbyshire, with further protests planned.
Campaign group Farmers for Action (FFA) has warned that cuts in the price paid to suppliers by dairy processors, combined with rising feed costs, could force hundreds of dairy farmers out of business.
The National Farmer’s Union (NFU) has said milk price cuts will be felt by 27% of producers and will impact on 25% of the milk market volume. It said an average farmer with about 150 to 200 cows would lose about £37,000 in revenue from the combined effect of previous cuts in May/June and the proposed new cuts in August.
Following two days of protests, Co-op announced the premium farmers receive would rise to 2.57 pence per litre with immediate effect, and to 4.27ppl when the processors' price cuts came in from 1 August. It brings the total price they receive to 29ppl.
Morrisons followed suit and announced it was increasing the premium to farmers on milk from 1p per litre to 3ppl, as well as introducing support payments equivalent to 3ppl for farmers affected by the recent bad weather. It brings the total price they receive to 31ppl.
Asda had already announced it would increase its premium from 1ppl to 3ppl from 1 August, meaning dairy farmers will continue to be paid 27.5ppl after the processors' cuts.
Emergency milk summit
As well as the processing plant blockades, the National Farmers' Union in conjunction with Farmers for Action organised an emergency milk summit in Westminster to call for changes in the dairy sector, so farmers aren't forced to sell milk at less than the cost of production.
The government is due to hold talks with farmers about securing the UK dairy industry's future on 23 July.
Writing for the BBC News Channel, chief political correspondent Norman Smith, said: “Although minsters are adamant they will not legislate or fix milk prices, they are determined in the words of one source ‘to bang heads together’. The hope is that more supermarkets will follow the example of the Co-op and Morrisons, thereby easing the immediate pressure on farmers and averting the threat of more blockades. This, it is hoped, will provide a breathing space in which ministers can seek to get all sides to agree to a new code of conduct governing milk prices.
“That would slightly tilt dairy contracts in favour of the farmers by ensuring retailers could not cut prices without giving at least a month's notice. At present, it is claimed some give only a few days' warning. It would also allow farmers to terminate contracts with just three months' notice rather than the current 12-month contracts. Ministers insist both sides need to be ready to compromise, but they are ‘cautiously optimistic’ that a deal can be reached this week.”
Source: NFU/FFA/BBC/Guardian/Royal Association of Dairy Farmers
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