Farmer leaders to meet supermarket bosses to discuss falling milk prices


Farming industry leaders are due to meet bosses from supermarket chain Morrisons today as they try to tackle the "crisis" of falling milk prices.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) said dairy farmers may be forced to leave the industry in the next few weeks as they struggle to pay bills and face rising debts.

NFU president Meurig Raymond and Rob Harrison, chairman of the NFU dairy board, will join campaign group Farmers For Action at a meeting with representatives from Morrisons in Birmingham.

The supermarket chain has been one of the main targets for protesters who have stripped milk from the shelves before dumping the produce or giving it away for free.

The meeting comes as the NFU's former chief economist said it was "unrealistic" for farmers to believe they can be paid "whatever price they think is needed".

Sean Rickard told Radio 4's Farming Today that dairy farmers were paid an average of £28,000 a year from the taxpayer.

He said: "I think it's unrealistic for anyone in that position to expect us just to pay them whatever price they think is needed to cover their cost of production. We don't apply that logic to any other industry.

"Through a combination of factors they're now finding it tough. That is absolutely no reason at all for us to pay them more money than they already get.

"Farmers have this shield that no other industry has and we shouldn't overlook it really. If they can't survive with their subsidy then, actually, they should give up making milk and live off the subsidy."

The four main farming unions, the NFU, the NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union, held an emergency summit in London yesterday to develop an action plan to tackle falling milk, lamb and arable prices.

The meeting followed days of protests by farmers including milk trolley challenges, blockades at distribution centres and even bringing cattle into supermarkets.

Farmers estimate that it costs between 30 and 32p to produce a litre of milk but the average price paid across the UK is 23.66p - following a drop of 25% in a year.

Speaking outside the summit, Mr Raymond said: "Obviously the industry is in crisis. There's despair within our members.

''There has been a race to the bottom to devalue product. When four pints of highly nutritious milk is selling for less than a bottle of water then there is something wrong in the culture of society.''

Ahead of today's meeting, a Morrisons spokesman said: ''We recognise that the current issue is being caused by a reduction in global demand for milk that has led to an over-supply in the UK and very difficult conditions for many dairy farmers.

''We want to reiterate that we are not seeking any further reductions in milk prices and we will continue our talks with the NFU, in a constructive manner, to finalise our agreed plan of action.''