Milk price row: Booths says stores have duty to pay farmers fairly

Booth’s supermarket in Kendal. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod
Booth’s supermarket in Kendal. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod

The supermarket chain that pays the highest price for milk in the industry has said retailers have a “responsibility” to look after suppliers in the midst of a bruising row between farmers and grocers over dairy pricing. Booths has committed to paying the highest price to suppliers for their milk, and Chris Dee, chief executive of the Preston-based grocer, said: “There is no point squeezing suppliers until they go bust” and that there had to be “give and take” in the relationship between retailers and farmers.

Aldi, Lidl, Asda and Morrisons agreed last week to increase the amount they pay for milk after farmers blockaded distribution centres and brought cows into supermarkets in protest at the price they were receiving. The National Farmers Union said there was a “state of emergency” in farming after a 25% fall in the farmgate price of milk in the last year, which means it is below the cost of production for many farmers. Read more.

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Government and NFU betray Britain’s dairy farmers

A small dairy farm in Adber, Dorset. Photo: Elliott Brown via Flickr (CC BY-NC)
A small dairy farm in Adber, Dorset. Photo: Elliott Brown via Flickr (CC BY-NC)

By Simon Fairlie. Published in The Land magazine, 15th August 2015

Just as the banks are ‘too big to fail’, so Britain’s struggling dairy farmers are ‘too small to save’, writes Simon Fairlie. And it’s not just the government that’s happy to see 16 dairy farms go the wall every week – it’s also the National Farmers Union to which most pay their dues. The NFU’s paradoxical response to the milk glut is to push for ever higher, more intensive milk production. Read more

 

Milk prices row: Dorset farmers stage first protest

Emily Gascoigne, from Wareham and Purbeck Young Farmers, said many people were leaving the industry (Photo: BBC)
Emily Gascoigne, from Wareham and Purbeck Young Farmers, said many people were leaving the industry (Photo: BBC)

About 100 farmers have cleared the shelves of an Asda store in Dorset in the first “Milk Trolley Challenge” protest in the county. Similar demonstrations have been held across the UK over the past few weeks calling for a fairer price for the dairy industry. Farmers, who brought two calves, bought up milk from Asda in Poole on Thursday evening before giving it away for free. The protest came just before Asda said it would pay more for its milk. Read more

Back British Farming Day highlights need for greater UK self-sufficiency

Official figures predict that by the mid-2040s we would meet just 53% of this nation’s needs in British food if nothing changes. (Photo: FarmingUK)
Official figures predict that by the mid-2040s we would meet just 53% of this nation’s needs in British food if nothing changes. (Photo: FarmingUK)

Today, August 14, marks the day in the calendar where the British larder would run bare if we fed the nation British food from January 1. This figure is based on our current self-sufficiency of 62%. Official figures also predict that by the mid-2040s the UK will be the most populous country in the EU at 77 million people. We would meet just 53% of this nation’s needs in British food if nothing changes.
This week has seen a perfect storm for British farming. Plummeting farmgate prices, a continued downward trend in global markets for household essentials like milk; and supermarkets continuing to devalue food have all highlighted the dire situation many British farmers are facing.

NFU President Meurig Raymond is telling retailers, government and the British public that now is the time to Back British Farming and urges: “If you want great British food tomorrow, then buy great British food today.” Read more. 

Milk prices row: Asda pledges to pay supplier 28p a litre

BBC, 13 August 2015

Asda is to increase the price it pays its milk supplier to “a level that will assist” farmers, the supermarket says. The chain says it will commit to paying 28p per litre for 100% of its liquid milk throughout its entire range. It is less than the 30-32p farmers estimate it costs to produce each litre but the farming union welcomed it. Asda’s announcement comes after protests by dairy farmers at branches of Asda, Morrisons, Lidl and Aldi over the price they are paid for their milk. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said it was pleased Asda had recognised the “plight of the dairy industry” in its “hour of need”. The industry says a reduction in global demand for milk has led to an over-supply in the UK, creating difficult conditions for many dairy farmers.

‘Hour of need’
Asda said it would increase the price it paid per litre to its milk supplier Arla from Monday, with the intention that it be passed directly on to farmers. Read more

The Guardian view on the dairy crisis: too important to be left to the market

Farmers don’t get paid enough but some shoppers can’t afford to buy. How did the market get so out of kilter?

A dairy farm worker prepares milk for calves. ‘Being at the whim of the world’s commodity markets means a farmer in Cheshire is vulnerable to a fall in demand from China, and Russia’s ban on EU food imports in retaliation for Brussels-imposed sanctions.’ Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters
A dairy farm worker prepares milk for calves. ‘Being at the whim of the world’s commodity markets means a farmer in Cheshire is vulnerable to a fall in demand from China, and Russia’s ban on EU food imports in retaliation for Brussels-imposed sanctions.’ Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

It is never all about money. It is, for example, becoming a familiar observation to say that housing, at least in London and a handful of other global capitals, has become not somewhere to live but an investment opportunity, to be bought and sold depending on the likely return. By bearing down on the use of offshore companies as vehicles for house ownership, as the chancellor George Osborne did in the summer budget last month, the government may hope to make a small dent in the surge in house prices which is contributing to the unaffordability of homes across south-east England. It is not just housing that is both a necessity of life and a commodity. So are many foodstuffs – most obviously, this week, milk. Here the government is silent. Read more.

MORRISONS TO CREATE NEW MILK BRAND FOR FARMERS

A new branding approach. (Photo: Claire Marshall, BBC News)
A new branding approach. (Photo: Claire Marshall, BBC News)

Morrisons will sell a new milk brand which will see 10p per litre extra paid to farmers, the supermarket says. The Milk for Farmers brand means a four pint bottle (2.27 litres), which now sells for 89p, will cost an extra 23p.
Other retailers have similar deals, but dairy organisation AHDB Dairy said 10p would make “a considerable difference”. The move comes after farming leaders met Morrisons bosses over concerns about the impact a sharp drop in the amount paid was having on the industry. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said it would now be writing to other sellers, asking them to follow Morrisons’s lead. The industry says a reduction in global demand for milk has led to an over-supply in the UK, creating difficult conditions for many dairy farmers. The NFU says the “huge crisis” had already driven 256 herds out of the industry so far in 2015. Read more

Q&A: Milk prices row and how the system works

UK dairy farmers are being forced out of business because of the low price of milk, industry leaders warn. In protest at their plight, farmers have been blockading milk distribution centres and even bringing cattle into supermarkets. What is the row over milk and who does it involve? 

No rest for the wicked. Photo: BBC
No rest for the wicked. Photo: BBC

Dairy farmers say they are in “crisis” because of the continuing fall in the price of milk. Put simply, it is costing farmers more money to produce milk than the amount they receive when they sell it. Figures released by the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for June 2015 put the average farm-gate price – which is the amount of cash farmers receive – at 23.66 pence per litre (ppl), the lowest for five years and down 25% in the last 12 months. However, farmers estimate that it costs between 30 and 32p to produce a litre of milk.

How are supermarkets involved?

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Graphic: Approximate costs breakdown of a 2 litre bottle of milk
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) argues that a supermarket price war, which has seen a 2.3-litre bottle of milk sell for 88p, has devalued the product in the eyes of the public, “purely to get customers through the door”. Read more.

Farmers announce ‘action plan’ over milk prices

Farming unions from across the UK have developed an action plan following an “urgent summit” to discuss milk prices. The plan includes calls for labels to indicate British products and long-term contracts for farmers. Some farmers are experiencing a “crisis” after being paid less for their milk than the cost of production, the National Farmers’ Union has said. Protests have included removing large quantities of milk from shops and blockading distribution centres.
‘Dire situation’
Supermarket chain Morrisons will meet farming industry leaders on Tuesday to discuss the price row.
It will include the UK’s four main farming unions – the NFU, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union – all of whom were involved in Monday’s meeting.
The NFU said the new action plan included calls for:
UK farming ministers to meet urgently and for government to ensure farmers’ contracts are longer term and more fair
Government to “urgently” ensure labelling rules mean British products are “clear and obvious”
Retailers to “stop devaluing” British food “purely to get customers through the door”
The EU to underwrite the short-term credit position of vulnerable farmers
The public to ask retailers what they are doing to ensure farmers receive a fair price. Read more