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Milk battle won but price war not over for Middlewich farmers
A CRISIS has been averted for dairy farmers in Middlewich and Winsford after a last minute U-turn on plans to cut the price of milk.
All major dairy processors have called off the August 1 price cut which would have caused many farmers to be paid less for milk than it costs to produce.
Farmers have been struggling to make ends meet since their pay was slashed in June and said a further cut could have put them out of business.
Robert Wiseman Dairies, Arla Foods, Dairy Crest and First Milk called off the price reductions after pressure from the dairy coalition, including Cheshire’s branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).
“It came as a huge relief,” said Sarah Williams, of Curtis Hulme Farm in Bradwall Road, Middlewich.
“It was very overwhelming after a stressful time.”
Robert Sheasby, NFU north west director, described the situation as a ‘crisis point’ while milk companies blamed a collapse in the value of cream.
Sarah, who runs the farm with her husband Robert and his brother David and parents Phillip and Miriam, said she wanted to thank the community.
Many shoppers supported farmers by buying milk from Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer who have agreed to pay a milk price that covers production costs.
Sarah, 36, who has a contract with Robert Wiseman Dairies, added: “The aim of the dairy coalition now is to get the remaining retailers to give the same commitment.
“We’re only half way through the battle. There is still no future in the dairy industry with the prices we’re being paid.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to find an income for our family.”
A spokesman for Robert Wiseman Dairies said: “The decision followed the significant loss of income we suffered further to the substantial decline in cream values which left us unable to sustain the milk price we were paying.
“The announcement of the reduction though coincided with a period of adverse weather conditions and rising feed costs for dairy farmers which we recognise has caused difficulties.
“We have been engaging with our customers with regards to the exceptional circumstances facing the supply chain and the need for urgent and significant support.
“We welcome whole industry recognition of the difficulties facing farmers and the acknowledgement that fresh milk processors are under severe financial pressure.
“We have confidence that we can work with our customers and farmers to address the obvious challenges that exist.”
Meanwhile, Fiona Bruce MP has also arranged a meeting between Cheshire farmers and Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) in September.
MEMBERS of the dairy coalition have vowed to keep up the pressure on retailers who do not pay dairy farmers a fair price.
The coalition, which includes NFU Cheshire, also thanked the public for their ‘overwhelming support’ for the SOS Dairy campaign.
NFU President Peter Kendall said “Firstly, I want to say a huge thank you to farmers and the general public for the part they have played in supporting this work and for helping the coalition to achieve the impact it has and in such a short time.
“The success we have seen to date in reversing those planned price cuts for August 1 is a sign of real strength and solidarity.
“However, there is still a long way to go and we need to build on the back of the successes from the past few weeks. We will be working hard to complete the contractual code of best practice as soon as possible.
“And rest assured, we will continue to name and shame retailers and other buyers of milk that do not pay their dairy farmers a price for milk that meets the cost of production.”