Milk is ridiculously cheap at the moment. Tesco currently charges just 75p for a two-pint carton, down from the 89p it was charging three years ago. With that in mind it's not surprising to see dairy farmers getting a bit uppity this week.
On Monday farmers across the country began taking direct action against supermarkets, going into stores, filling trolleys to the brim with milk before either buying it all (leaving other customers to go without) or dumping the trolleys by the checkouts. Last night things escalated when a group used tractors to blockade a Morrisons depot in Somerset. As well as action, the week has brought with it some rather dramatic rhetoric.
'We as farmers need to stand together like we have never done before, we need to forget any past differences and deliver the strongest message ever to those who purchase our products and to those who govern our industry and tell them we have had enough, we cannot continue this downward trend of pricing of our fantastic products whilst those who serve the public continue to bring it millions of miles around the world, affecting our wonderful environment and being of no benefit to the countries they trade in as they operate the same policies there in purchasing which is 'we want it cheaper', it's got to stop,' said Farmers for Action chairman David Handley, who was presumably too angry to pause for breath.
The farmers' anger is totally understandable – some estimate that the price they are currently being paid per litre is as much as 39% less than it costs them to produce. But at a time when supermarkets are cutting prices with the ideological vigour of a religious fundamentalist, it would take a seriously brave exec to boost the price of milk by 10p per pint to appease those who produce it. Of course that might prove to be self-defeating: grocers will have a much harder time getting hold of fresh milk if most of Britain's dairy farmers are driven out of business.