Farms Fight to Halt Cuts in Milk Prices; Producers Bid to Save British Dairy Industry

The Journal (Newcastle, England), July 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

Farms Fight to Halt Cuts in Milk Prices; Producers Bid to Save British Dairy Industry


Byline: Ruth Lognonne

DAIRY farmers in the North East say they are being pushed to the brink after suppliers imposed a huge cut in milk prices.

The price dairy farmers are paid for milk has been heavily slashed after three major dairy processors issued notices for reductions. Now farmers say they could be driven out of business by the cuts, putting the British dairy industry at risk and leading to the prospect of lower-standard milk being imported.

Cuts of up to 2p per litre announced in the past two weeks by Wiseman, Dairy Crest, Arla and First Milk have angered farmers in the region.

More than 2,500 farmers gathered in London yesterday to protest against the reductions, with farming minister Jim Paice - who earlier this week admitted he didn't know the cost of a pint of milk - urged to intervene.

Top breeder and producer Michael Howie, who milks 200 cows at Morwick Farm, near Acklington in Northumberland, is already pounds 82,000 out of pocket after Durham-based processors Rock Farm Dairy failed to pay him for two months' worth of milk following its demise earlier this year. He then opted to sell his milk through Arla, but when the latest cuts come into force next month, his milk will only be worth 25p a litre, despite it costing 30p to produce.

The 55-year-old said: "We have no control over the price of what we produce. We have to take what we are given and it's immoral that companies are failing to support British producers.

"It's a sad state of affairs when water costs more to buy in the supermarkets than milk! At the end of the day, farm rent is going up, feed prices are rising and the cost of fertiliser is through the roof. It's not an easy life being up at 5am every morning, seven days a week."

The Howie family has farmed at Morwick since 1945 and gained numerous show championships over the years, including supreme dairy championships at the Royal Highland and Royal Show.

Despite the family's rich farming her-itage, Mr Howie says the future looks bleak for his three young sons.

"If we got our fair price it would be worth my three boys working the farm," he said. …

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