Buyers urged to stop 'milking' dairy farmers

10 September 2010

10 September 2010 | Helen Gilbert

Retailers are being told to “stop finding excuses” and work with dairy farmers to reach fair price agreements on the supply of milk.

Speaking at the Dairy and Livestock show at the NEC in Birmingham this week, National Farmers Union (NFU) president Peter Kendall confirmed he had written to retailers calling for dairy farmers to get their “fair share of better market returns”.

His letter renewed calls for action, two months after the union published its Great Milk Robbery report, which quizzed milk buyers on why dairy farmers were losing out. Kendall said the response to the report had been “unsatisfactory” and “warranted further investigation”.

“Our report challenged milk buyers on why dairy farmers were not getting their share and it is very disappointing to say that the responses we’ve had so far do not go far enough,” he said.

“Some milk buyers are blaming other milk buyers for holding the market down, some are blaming the retailers for driving hard bargains and some are accusing others of being weak sellers. The only consistent message coming from milk buyers is that everybody else is to blame. Our members deserve a better explanation.”

In his letter, Kendall has asked buyers and retailers why British dairy farmers have still not received their fair share of improved market returns. Kendall also sought assurances that, as retail margins on milk and cheese rose again in 2009/10, retailers will guarantee that farmers won’t end up paying for what they see as damaging promotions.

He also asked how retailers can reassure farmers that retendering their liquid milk contracts will not jeopardise the relationships that they have built up with their dedicated dairy farmers. The union president intends to publish his conclusions based on their responses.

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