16 January 2015 – the cost of paying minimum milk pricesPosted: January 16, 2015
One of the UK’s largest dairy co-operatives, First Milk, has announced it will delay payment to more than 1,000 dairy farmers for their milk for a fortnight in order to put its finances ‘on a stronger footing’. This highlights a deepening of the crisis facing UK dairy farmers where numbers of milk producers in England and Wales have fallen below 10,000 (a 50% fall since 2001). Farmer Neil Darwent says in a letter to the Guardian (Thursday 15 January) that this is due to the drive for ever cheaper milk by retailers using it as a loss leader. He predicts a steady march towards a future where milk and dairy products will increasingly flow from industrial sites rather than from traditional farms, with the loss of Britain’s seasonally grazed dairy herds. For this farmer, the answer is to encourage people to take responsibility for their food choices with clear labelling on the cartons about the provenance of the milk and a fair price for farmers supplying it.
Large milk buyers have attributed the difficulties to global commodity prices with more milk being produced while demand is falling, but UK farmers dispute this because more than 80% of UK produced milk is used in this country.
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