Pay us more for our milk by next month - or we'll take direct action
Pay us more for our milk or we'll picket your depots – that's the warning from dairy-farmer ginger group Farmers For Action (FFA) to processors.
FFA, led by Cornishman David Handley, says dairies must increase milk prices by September 1 or face further farmer protests. There have already been protests at two Midlands depots over the past couple of months.
Mr Handley, the FFA chairman, said processors should be making higher payments to farmers for their milk, as the market was rising.
He said: "My advice to dairy farmers is that by September 1, if you have not got a price increase you should be out there saying you are not accepting the situation any more."
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Mr Handley, who originates from Camelford in North Cornwall, warned of further protests unless prices increased to 34p per litre by September 1.
FFA has singled out Arla, the giant Danish-based farmer-owned co-operative, which merged with Westcountry-based Milk Link. There have already been protests upcountry against Arla this summer. Mr Handley said that as a farmer-owned enterprise it should realise farmers could not run sustainable businesses with current milk prices.
Following the warning of extra new protests a spokesman for Arla said members of the co-op had already questioned the motives behind farmers picketing a farmer-owned business. "We have nothing more to add," he said.
FFA's demands may be premature by a month or two – as payments should reach up to 35ppl this year, according to South West sector consultant Nick Holt-Martyn.
He said farmers should expect 33p by October, with headline prices over 35p.
It was all down to weather conditions and global markets, said Mr Holt-Martyn, of the Taunton-based consultancy The Dairy Group.
There was likely to be more upward movement in prices over the next three months, he predicted.
"With the UK lying mid-table in the EU farm-gate price league and most of our near competitors already over 35p, more upward price movement for the UK should be expected," he said. "This is backed up by a rising cheese market, which is supported by rising retail returns for mature cheddar, butter and powder returns at 35p.
"Current base contracts are in the range 30p to 32p, but 35p per litre by the end of the year looks possible. The liquid sector will take its lead from cheese to remain competitive."
Mr Holt-Martyn expected weaker cattle-feed costs this autumn would encourage supplementary feeding and, coupled with better forage supplies, would lift milk yields and profit margins.
According to the dairy league table, current average payments to farmers are around 31p.