It goes in our Yorkshire tea, our Yorkshire puddings and our Yorkshire cakes but now it could be about be to disappear of the shelves. This Wednesday, hundreds of Yorkshire farmers joined over 2,500 farmers from the UK as they descended upon Westminster for a ‘dairy summit’. Demanding fairness and shunning exploitation, farmers protested to the government after a number of major milk processors introduced further cuts of up to 2p per litre, a slash to farmers’ income that would see milk that costs 30p to produce sold for 25p.
In today’s busy world, the clink of the milk bottle as it arrives on the doorstep before the world is awake is rapidly becoming an unheard sound as thousands stop receiving milk from their local farmers and instead turn to the mass supermarkets for their dairy dose. As a consequence, many farmers now sell their milk straight to the supermarkets, some of which agree a fair pricing strategy with the farmers to ensure they are not undersold. However, now a number of big-name supermarkets are driving farmers “to the brink” as they cut selling prices below production costs.
Yesterday’s Westminster protest, organised by the National Farmer’s Union (NFU), followed a clash between farmers and the supermarket company Asda at the Great Yorkshire Show on Tuesday. This saw more than 250 farmers invade the Asda pavilion armed with a sign advertising their anger to the hordes of Show visitors which said: “Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Waitrose support dairy farmers. The rest are killing us paying 5p per litre below our costs”.
Further outcry ensued when Agricultural Minister Jim Paice embarrassingly revealed that he did not know the price of milk (it’s 49p- cheaper than a bottle of water) as his wife always does the shopping. This caused Mr Paice to face raucous boos and heckling from yesterday’s crowds.
Addressing the Westminster crowds, National Farmers’ Union deputy president Meurig Raymond said: “These latest cuts are the feed bills, the wages, the housekeeping, and will take us well into loss-making territory – with many farmers losing up to 6p per litre.Society has to recognise what these dairy farmers have been put through by a marketplace that doesn’t work and is not fair.”
Despite David Cameron pledging to help the farmers with a £5m boost to the dairy industry, Mr Raymond was still adamant that unless price cuts are reversed by August 1, mass action would go ahead.
In the face of these cuts, a real threat has emerged that farmers could be forced into bankruptcy, something which could significantly harm the dairy industry for good. In the past two years alone, 77 farmers just from the North East and North Yorkshire area have gone out of business.
Ian Mudd, a North Yorkshire farmer who has 135 cows told the Yorkshire Post that he was one such farmer struggling to stay afloat, saying that he will lose £50,000 a year because of the cuts. He said: “We are an endangered species…What is so sad is there is no hope for the next generation of dairy farmers.”
Follow #SOSdairy on Twitter to see the debate unfold.