FFA to target Muller Wiseman in milk price protest tonight
FARMERS For Action is set to target Muller Wiseman tonight in what could be first in a series of protests aimed at reversing the recent swathe of milk price cuts.
FFA is calling supporters to congregate at Market Drayton Livestock Centre at 8pm, with Muller’s Shropshire processing plant widely expected to be the target.
“This will be the first official protest, further action will take place in key areas shortly,” FFA has told members.
In a strongly-worded message, Muller has urged what it is describing as a ‘group of militants’ to ‘stop and think’ before embarking on ‘illegal blockades’.
It claimed protests would have ‘disastrous consequences’ for an industry already under severe pressure from steep falls in the value of commodities like cream and butter.
Muller was one of a number of processors to announce further price cuts last week. It is reducing its price by 1.9ppl, which take it to 27.1ppl from Nov 1.
It has blamed the cuts on ‘very high levels of milk production coupled with weaker demand for dairy commodities’ and insists it will still be paying one of the highest price for its milk from November 1.
But FFA, while accepting global supply and demand factors are behind some of the reductions seen in milk prices since the start of the year, insists the latest wave of price cannot be justified.
Commenting on Mullers price cut it said 95 per cent of the excuses being made for price cuts were ‘not justified’.
“But, if farmers keep accepting them, then who can blame the buyers for taking the money?” FFA said.
“Police forces across the country have been alerted by our friends at Muller that they expect disruption, why are they feeling so guilty that they have to go to the Police. Do they not understand dairy producers need a sustainable milk price as well as they do?”
FFA has been gauging the opinion of farmers at meetings around the country in recent weeks. Farmers in Frome, Market Drayton and Carmarthen have all indicated support for protests if the situation did not improve.
However, the protests will not have the support of the NFU, which says, while it is monitoring the actions of milk buyers, the recent milk price cuts are the result of global marktets and cannot be blamed on processors or retailers.
Ronald Kers, Chief Executive at Müller UK & Ireland Group said the extra milk produced in the UK over the past year has contributed to the current situation.
“Dairy farmers have been breaking all-time records in terms of milk production and the prices received for their milk,” .
“Farms in the UK have increased production by more than 1 billion litres of milk this year – almost an extra litre for every ten litres which they produced last year.
“Unfortunately this extra milk coupled with weaker demand has affected farm-gate milk prices.
“This is a worldwide phenomenon repeated in all major milk producing countries, and the imbalance between supply and demand has resulted in the value of dairy commodities reducing by more than 50 per cent in just 8 months.
“Some of this decrease in commodity prices is being reflected in the farm gate milk price. Whilst disappointed, most farmers accept that this is the nature of the milk market.
“But this group of militants believes that markets can be affected by unlawfully halting operations and vehicle movements in and out of dairies, which adds substantial cost and makes it harder for processors to recover from the impact of this slump.”
He said the taxpaying public, including hard-working farmers, will be left to pick up a substantial bill for the policing of these illegal blockades, while hundreds of dairy employees who simply want to do their jobs before going home to their families will again be affected.
The reputation of the UK dairy industry as a progressive, market responsive and innovative sector has been growing, and this is crucial if our industry is to attract the investment required to build world class processing capacity.
“These militants seem intent on destroying this and making the UK an unattractive prospect for investment. The consequences for the entire British agricultural industry could be disastrous,” he said.
But FFA hit backing, posting a message on Twitter, accusing Muller of being on a ‘guilt trip’.
“We are working with the Police, are not planning blockades and are not ‘millitants’ just hardworking dairy farmers,” it said.
Rob Newbery, the NFU’s former chief dairy adviser who now heads up the union’s West Midlands branch, said the prcie cuts were linked to the value of dairy commodities.
He said: “In Europe, we see the value of dairy commodities tracking the value of commodities worldwide.
“This is because the price of intervention (the minimum price the EU sets for milk) no longer props up European prices. Farmers in the UK see their prices go up and come down when the prices of the commodioties globally go up and down.
“The supply and demand dynamic, with more milk being produced around the world and less product being consumed – all result in prices dropping again.
“With increasing demand for dairy over the next ten years we will see prices go and up down. Consumers can help British dairy farmers by looking for theRed Tractor.
“Understandably farmers are frustrated.”
You read the full Muller statement here
You can see Farmers Guardian’s analysis of why milk prices are falling here
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