East Anglia: Coachload of dairy farmers head to Westminster today

A CRUCIAL summit on the state of the dairy industry is due to take place in London later today.

East Anglia’s dairy sector will be sending more than 60 people to the milk summit at Westminster as anger grows at a succession of cuts in the price of farm gate milk.

A coach will be leaving the National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU)’s Newmarket regional headquarters at 9am, said spokesman Brian Finnerty.

“We’ve been getting calls from every sector including arable farmers expressing support for the dairy sector,” he said.

“Given the number of dairy herds in the east, there has been tremendous support from the industry.”

Dozens of producers from East Anglia will join farmers’ leader Peter Kendall to call for reversal of the 4p per litre price cut imposed on the loss-making dairy industry.

Dairy farmer Jonathan Crickmore, of Bungay, who is among those heading for London, said: “We have been used and abused for too long by the processor and the supermarket. At the moment we are heading towards a very difficult winter where many of us will be put out of business. This has to stop and at long last the dairy farmer has realised if we work together we will make a difference, this is our milk and we are in charge.”

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Ken Proctor, of Grange Farm, Shipdham, who is deputy chairman of Norfolk National Farmers’ Union, will be leading a contingent of about 25 producers from the county to the capital.

His eldest son, Robert, was pictured recently with the farm’s pedigree Airfield herd in the EDP’s Farm & Country feature highlighting the plight of the industry.

Award-winning farmer, Stephen Temple, of Copys Green Green Farm, Wighton, near Wells, who represents the county on the NFU regional milk board, and former NFU county chairman, William Brigham, will be attending the meeting at Central Hall.

A fifth generation milk producer, Alex Dann, who milks 160 Holsteins at North Tuddenham, near Dereham, and his parents Simon and Susan and sister Charlotte, will travel to Westminster’s Central Hall to campaign for a fair milk price.

Mr Dann, aged 24, and herdsman Ashley Martin produce quality milk for the family’s Norfolk Farmhouse Ice Cream business, which was started by his father at Pound Farm. Now faced with a milk price of less than 25p per litre – 5p below the accepted industry break-even – they will join hundreds of farmers in the capital.

Dairy farmer Emily Rout, who started her own herd about three years ago on the family farm at Tibenham, is also angry that milk is so much cheaper than bottled water. “Some discount shops are selling four pints of milk for less than �1. I’ve calculated that you can buy 15 pints of milk for the price of a pint of beer,” she said.

Her cows live on the family’s Home Farm, where her father, Peter and mother Tina run a 100-cow herd. As an award-winning young farmer, who wrote and published her own cookery book last year, Emily is determined to secure a long-term future for the dairy industry. “For my sister Laura and I, dairy cows are our passion – however, with the industry as it is, it is only becoming harder to make headway.

“But the latest cuts in milk prices will force even more producers into making losses,” she said. Last week she went to the House of Commons to meet the county’s MPs to press for a fair deal for dairy farmers.

“How can it be right that milk is so much cheaper than mineral water,” she added.

Ice cream maker Mr Dann, said: “Look at the price of bottled mineral water in the supermarket; it is more expensive than a container of milk.” He also saw that a local cash and carry was selling a two-litre bottle of milk for just 89p. Milk producers have been told that a fall in cream prices has forced dairy processors to slash prices. “But in the last month the cream market has gone up by more than �200 per tonne,” said Mr Dann.

When dairies buy milk from farms, all the fat content or cream is removed. “Then they add it back again to fill the red or blue top container. When 64pc of milk sales are semi-skimmed at 1.6pc fat, they’re buying milk at 4pc fat, so they get the 2.4pc or cream for nothing.

“Now they’re complaining it isn’t worth anything. I don’t know who is making most of the profit; is it the retailer or the processor? It certainly isn’t the dairy farmer,” said Mr Dann. “When I asked visitors to our Open Farm Sunday event last month for a show of hands whether they would pay a fair price for a two-litre bottle of milk with a decent return for the farmer, there wasn’t a single one opposed.”

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