The National Farmers Union - among others - will be out in force in the Capital today to fight back against price cuts announced by leading milk processing companies Arla Foods UK, Robert Wiseman Dairies and Dairy Crest. From August this year, the dairies are imposing a 2p price cut on every litre of milk produced, slashing up to £50,000 off farmers' annual revenue, and threatening livelihoods across the country.
This price cut follows hot on the heels of price cuts in Spring this year, taking many farmers into a 5p deficit on every pint of milk they produce.
The cuts could not at a worse time for dairy farmers. In order to win contracts with the supermarkets, margins are already squeezed to the max. Prices on the world cream market, usually a key source of profit, have dropped, eating into earnings yet further. This is forcing many dairy farmers out of business: there were 17,000 dairy farmers in England and Wales in 2004. This has dropped to just 11,000 over eight years.
The farmers are heading to Westminster today to lobby agriculture minister Jim Paice over the issue. 'If we don't get paid a fair price, that means less milk will be produced and in the long term the consumers will have to pay more,' says NFU vice president Adam Quinney.
Paice has said that he will listen to their case but has warned against protesters taking 'militant' action. With some farmers threatening to pour their milk down the drain rather than give in to the price cuts, however, MT hopes he brought an umbrella. It could be raining the white stuff in Westminster today...