Written by: Ayman Fazeli
Published: 5th August 2015
Dairy farmers across the UK have declared 'enough is enough' as their milk production margins continue to be squeezed by the major supermarkets and co-operatives.
After the decision taken by Arla – the UK's biggest dairy co-operative - to reduce the price it pays to farmers by 0.8p to 23.01p, farming activists took to the aisles of numerous supermarkets across the country in a synchronised protest.
Dubbed the Milk Trolley Challenge, protesters removed all available cartons of milk from shop shelves, including leading chain stores Morrisons, Aldi and Lidl, and either paid for it or left bursting trollies at the checkout.
Those that paid for the bulk orders did so in order to donate the milk to those in need and, in doing so, spread the word about the increased pressures faced by dairy farmers who say it costs around 31p on average to produce each litre of milk – a figure derived from British dairy organisation AHDB Dairy.
In a video of the protest, a female activist says: "We're doing the Milk Trolley Challenge. This is due to the unfair milk price. We are clearing the shelves. Morrisons, you have been milked."
West Midlands dairy farmer Michael Oakes, from the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said: "We've got to the point where we're getting an unsustainable price for our milk.
"I'm getting paid 24p (per litre) and it's costing me 28p to produce. So we thought we'd go along to the retailer, we've bought the milk and we're going to give it away to the consumer and explain why."
So far, protests have taken place in:
Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: “The market situation in dairy, lamb and many other products is driving farming families to a desperate state with returns from the market failing to cover costs of production.
”Farmers have worked very hard to gain the respect and support of the public for great British food - now farmers simply want and need a fair return for years' of investment.
According to BBC Magazine Monitor's research into the dairy farm industry earlier this year, it can be down to the individual farm whether it makes or loses money on its milk production as production costs can vary. Some dairy farms receive subsidies for the amount of land they have, and despite some making a loss on their milk business, they may still be making money.
The plight facing dairy farmers follows the news that the number of British food firms facing “significant” financial distress has risen by over 50 per cent during the past 12 months, further highlighting how the ongoing battles for customers and market share between the UK’s leading supermarkets is piling on financial pressures within the associated food and beverage supply chain.
Ayman is a journalist with over ten years' experience in the business and financial sectors. He heads up our sizeable content team and his specialties include issues around company insolvency and restructuring. He has written for The Guardian, The Daily Mail and Mashable to name just a few publications.