‘Stop being short-sighted or lose your milk suppliers’

January 17, 2015

MP's letter

STANDARD REPLY: This letter was sent to a South West farmer by their local MP. It is good they have been in touch but I have seen others posted by farmers identical to this one in a similar format, maybe they need to invest more time in their replies. I would remind them the land management done by these businesses and the tourism that is generated off the back of this is at stake.



TESCO’S TWEET: @mattbelldotorg We guarantee that our farmers earn a price reflecting production costs. You can read more here: http://bit.ly/1AIceiu  Joel



SOMERSET farmers have warned a milk processor not to cut their price to supply liquid milk too far back or they will put themselves out of a job.

James Hole and his fellow county colleague Colin Robertson were speaking to media student Matt Jones in the second part of his video Who Is Milking It? The Truth Behind Milk Production, I have transcribed their interviews with him later in this article.

Sarah Bayliss wrote to various supermarket chains to find out their responses by posting the following message to them on their Facebook pages. I can reveal that I independently contacted Tesco and they gave me a response which you will see below.

She wrote: “We as British Dairy Farmers would like to know what you would consider a fair price for a litre of milk wholesale. It cost the farmer 30ppl to produce, and they are currently getting paid up to 12p lower than that by the dairies ourselves.

“Selling the milk at cut prices as a loss leader is driving these prices down. Ethically you along with other supermarkets have a social responsibility to treat your producers fairly.

“Would it not be fair to at least ensure that milk has to be purchased from the producer at a fixed price above that national average cost of production?

“You operate at a profit .. why should farmers who supply your basic commodities not be allowed to do the same? (and remember that milk and milk products are a staple food and the public will buy them at a fair price if you sell them at a fair price) A response would be appreciated.”

She soon got some responses. Lidl said: “We wholeheartedly support our British dairy farmers, ensuring our buying prices don’t impact our retail prices and we absorb the costs of any market-led price reductions.”

Spar UK said: “As some of our stores are independently owned, we cannot control consistency of pricing.”

In a tweet sent to me by Joel from Tesco in response to a similar question posed by me about paying a price about the cost of production and whether the imported produce to replace what is lost was a better product, I was referred to a press release from September 2014.

In it the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group said its own brand milk was being received in payment for 32p per litre to their suppliers, reflecting the costs of production based on costs submitted to agri-food consultancy Promar.

Agriculture director Tom Hind said: “By agreeing a clear price based on the cost of production, for a period of six months, we are able to offer our farmers real stability and confidence in a changeable market.” I would only add, it may have changed since then. Please tell me.

Speaking in front of the Muller Wiseman processing factory at Bridgwater, James Hole of Wedmore warned them that if they continually put their suppliers at risk by cutting the price, they would be putting themselves and their employees out of a job as there would be no raw product to use.

James Hole said: “I am on a family farm with my grandfather, father and uncle and we farm 240 Holstein-Friesian dairy animals.

Basically the Milk retailers and processors are squeezing the price and we’ve currently had a 25 per cent price reduction in the value of our milk which is looking in excess of £6,000 per month. Hopefully we are raising awareness and taking it to the processor behind me.

“I hope they will realise they can no longer continue to cut the milk price because I believe it is narrow-minded and short-sighted.

“I say that because if they continue to cut the price and farmers continue to go out of business at the rate of three a week out of the dairy industry, then this site behind me will become very dormant and there will be no milk going through this factory.”

When Matt asked if James had a specific message he wanted to convey to the supermarkets, it was a very blunt one.

“Stop being short-sighted and stop driving farmers out of business through paying a product below the cost of production which is what we are doing at the moment. What we need to do as an agricultural industry is get a level playing field not just in dairy but also beef, sheep, pigs and poultry.”

Fellow Somerset farmer Colin Robertson said: “As of today’s prices, never mind where they may end up, we are £120,000 short of where we were. You won’t be able to gauge whether the protest was successful just from tonight.”

In conclusion, I would only add – as I have said before on my site – that the industry needs to play the landscape card, as the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty group does down here. No farmers and its supply chain managing the land, means no countryside asset, depreciated house values and tourism affected. Keep putting the pressure on and more of the public will see the bigger picture.


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