More protests by farmers expected over milk prices

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FARMERS could launch more direct protests in the campaign against the price they are paid for milk, after using tractors to blockade dairy processing plants in Leeds and elsewhere.

Campaign group Farmers for Action warned that producers could target other dairy plants after Thursday nights block at Arla plants in Leeds and Ashby-de-la-Zouch and a Robert Wiseman Dairy processing plant near Bridgwater.

Dairy farmers are furious about cuts of up to 2p a litre in the amount they receive from major milk processors and many fear the shortfall will force them out of business.

The action is the latest in a series of protests by farmers who are angry that they are to be paid less for their milk than it costs to produce it.

David Handley, chairman of FFA, said they had meetings yesterday with Robert Wiseman and Arla and said plans were being drawn up for further demonstrations.

“You have got to give these people the opportunity to respond,” he said. “We will judge at the end of that whether there is a necessity to go back there again or whether we move on to the next target.

“I think that sort of decision will be made fairly soon.”

The latest cuts will see farmers paid around 25p a litre for milk, but the NFU said the cost of production is 29p a litre, meaning a sale price of 29.5p is the minimum needed.

Farming minister Jim Paice said he would be holding meetings next week with milk producers and supermarkets to draw up a voluntary code for contracts.

“They can’t operate a cartel but what they can do is sign up to a voluntary code of practice,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal about this. This would not set the price but would set the arrangements for the contract so that farmers and processors knew where they stood.”

Mr Paice criticised the supermarkets for their role, saying they were a “major player” in the market, which sees customers pay around 46p for a pint of milk.

“I think supermarkets have to account for why they are using milk as a loss leader,” he said. Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have urged the public to boycott some supermarkets over cuts to the price of milk.

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