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Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 17:10 GMT
Price squeeze 'hitting farmers'
Peter Kendall
A squeeze on prices is forcing UK farmers under, Mr Kendall says
The president of the National Farmers' Union says the UK dairy industry is facing "meltdown" unless supermarket chains treat farmers more fairly.

Peter Kendall told the union's annual conference a squeeze on prices was putting three dairy farmers out of business every day.

He questioned whether the stores' commitment to so-called responsible retailing was little more than PR.

Supermarkets have long argued they treat suppliers fairly.

Earlier, Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King said that while he was on the whole very happy with the way he dealt with farmers, there had been isolated incidents where suppliers had been treated badly by his buyers.

A Competition Commission inquiry into the grocery industry is continuing.

It has been examining the supply chain, planning and land banks of the four big UK supermarkets.

'Window dressing'

Mr Kendall told delegates in Birmingham that the farmers producing the goods on the shelves were finding it hard to make a living.

The dairy sector in particular is on the verge of meltdown
Peter Kendall

He criricised the supermarkets for putting short-term profits ahead of sustainability.

"In the City, long-term means after lunch, and we are talking about an industry that really does want to be looking three, four, five years ahead", he said.

Speaking on BBC Radio Five Live, he also said the big retailers were treating green issues as window dressing.

"We're hearing lots of great news from the retailers about wanting to have green supply chains, make their production sustainable etc, but what I'm saying to them is that the dairy sector in particular is on the verge of meltdown.

"And we see ever-increasing large margins for the supermarkets, and farmers are getting a smaller and smaller part of the cake, and they are leaving in their droves - three a day are leaving the diary sector at this moment in time."

Your comments

I feel these people are being exploited by big business and are crying for help
Keith Drake, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, England

As a feed supplier to many dairy, beef and sheep farmers, my customers have been treated very badly as farmers over the past 10 years, they are now finding it very difficult to makes end meet. They have tried to become more efficient cutting costs where ever they can and keeping more animals per man. I have farmers who start work at 5am and work through to 10 pm, they use family labour and never go holiday or even have a night out. I feel these people are being exploited by big business and are crying for help.
Keith Drake, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, England

My brother in law has sold his pedigree dairy herd because of continual squeezing from DEFRA as well as dairy chain. But to add more to the argument, how green is your milk supply? Do you get your milk from throw away containers as supplied in supermarkets or reusable glass bottles from a daily delivery on your door step before breakfast as I do? Get your pinta from the greenest supplier, your local milkman (they will deliver more than just milk. Forget the supermarket and the traffic chaos they produce.
T. Hunn, Bucks

Where was Mr Kendall when the Milk Marketing Board was being abolished? The MMB guaranteed to purchase all of the milk a farmer produced at a price that enabled producers to run a sustainable business. My Father was one of those employees in manufacturing dairies that lost his job when the MMD was abolished. He remembers that farmers were overjoyed at the end of the MMB, saying that they could now "charge what we like" for milk.
Ian Stanley, Hinckley, Leics, UK

Farmers should look into working together
Stefan Paetow, Oxford, England

Perhaps like-minded farmers should look into working together and approach organisations that offer better and fairer prices to farmers while providing us, the public, with greener and fresher alternatives to buying fruit and veg from supermarkets. And if farmers connect with savvy web companies, they can provide the same kind of service direct!
Stefan Paetow, Oxford, England

I am a director of a small milking equipment supplier and we are really feeling the squeeze. Our customers are dairy farmers and we rely on them 100% for our business to be successful. Farmers will always invest money in equipment as long as they are making money but expecting investment into something that is not even breaking even is impossible. People do not realise the affect failing agriculture has on industry as a whole and I cannot understand why they cannot receive another 3 pence per litre and pass that increase directly onto the end user.
David Coles, Monmouth, Wales

I am not a big fan of supermarkets, but the dairies also need to look at themselves. What really is a fair price for a pint of milk, 48p when you can buy organic in a supermarket for less. We recently were told by the dairy that they are changing to only a 3 day delivery in our area - no consultation, they just please themselves. The service is becoming unreliable and inflexible. We actually think are the dairies saying that they don't really want to offer the doorstep delivery service anymore?
Mark, Essex

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