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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Farmers protest over milk price
Milk at supermarket
Farmers say they are losing money on every litre
Scotland's dairy farmers are planning to stage protests against the "low prices" being offered by supermarkets for milk supplies.

The National Farmers' Union Scotland (NFUS) said it costs dairy farmers on average 4p more to produce a litre of milk than they are being paid by the supermarkets.

The union said demonstrations will be held outside distribution centres next month, unless the supermarkets move to give farmers a fairer deal.

The NFUS said the average cost of producing a litre of milk is 19p, yet their members receive 15p while processors and the large multiples take most of the 45p to 50p retail price.


Farming businesses are on the line with families only looking for a living. We have no option but to fight for their future

Scottish NFU president Jim Walker
After unsuccessful negotiations with the supermarkets, the NFUS said that direct action was the only option.

NFUS president Jim Walker said: "Supermarkets are making billions of pounds a year in profit.

"We have had regular dialogue with senior executives and directors from all the multiples who are constantly telling us how much they support British agriculture.

"Yet their buyers on the ground end up squeezing the supply chain so hard that there is nothing left for the farmer after the supermarkets and processors get their margins."

Scotland's 2,000 dairy farmers said they are also struggling against increased costs this year due to poor quality silage as a result of bad weather.

Mr Walker, who came to prominence in large part due to his role in demonstrations against livestock imports at Stranraer, also signalled the union's intention to demonstrate at Scottish ports to highlight the impact of cheap East European grain on prices for home-grown cereal.

Scottish NFU president Jim Walker
Jim Walker: Farmers being squeezed

The NFUS said the price farmers receive for milk is at its lowest in real terms for 16 years.

A survey of 16 European milk buyers, carried out by the Dutch milk board, identified Scotland's largest milk buyer as paying farmers the least for the product.

And the firm's price for June this year was almost 31% lower than that set in June 2001 - compared to an average drop in price of 6% across the EU.

Mr Walker said: "If we don't get a clear signal that farm gate milk prices will rise then Thursday, 19 September will see the start of a series of demonstrations in Scotland.

"Farming businesses are on the line with families only looking for a living. We have no option but to fight for their future."

Retailer Tesco said it recognised the pressures British dairy producers were under, but insisted direct action would not help the plight of farmers.

A spokesman said: "We recognise that farmers are under a lot of pressure at the moment due to low market prices and the long term impact of disease, and we are committed to working with the industry."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Willie Johnston reports
"It is not just the cows being milked dry, say farmers."
See also:

17 May 01 | Scotland
17 Mar 00 | Scotland
01 Feb 00 | Business
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