20 July 2012 10:23
Hundreds of farmers blockaded processing plants into the early hours of this morning in a protest against the price they are paid for milk.
Supporters of the organisation Farmers for Action (FFA) used tractors to block a Robert Wiseman Dairy processing plant near Bridgwater, Somerset, last night, while other farmers gathered outside an Arla plant in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, and another plant in Leeds.
Dairy farmers are campaigning over cuts of up to 2p a litre in the amount they receive from major milk processors. Many fear the shortfall will force them out of business.
David Handley, chairman of FFA, warned blockades could form again tonight.
Mr Handley said: "These people have got greedy, and they have squeezed us and squeezed us to the point we have got to. We have got to fight for the industry because if we don't the industry is going to go."
Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have stepped into the debate and urged the public to boycott some supermarkets over cuts to the price of milk.
In a letter to The Times, the chefs said it was "shocking" that many dairy farmers were to be paid less for their milk than it costs them to produce it, adding that the industry was becoming "unviable".
Calling on consumers to boycott supermarkets that continued to use milk as a loss leader, they warned that thousands of family businesses would fail and the landscape would be threatened if the industry breaks down or becomes "super-industrialised".
But the British Retail Consortium said supermarkets were the "wrong target".
Spokesman Richard Dodd said: "They're actually the best payers for milk. Currently, 11 of the top 12 best-paying milk contracts are contracts paid by supermarkets."