UK: National Farmers’ Union president Peter Kendall’s open letter on dairy crisis

A FARMERS’ leader said demonstrations over cuts in farm gate milk prices were having “a huge impact”.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Peter Kendall has written an open letter following last week’s dairy summit in Westminster, setting out efforts being made to reverse a series of price cuts by milk processors. Here we publish his letter in full.

“Firstly, a massive thank you to those of you who have shown support to our campaign to back British dairy farmers,” he said.

“Following the summit last Wednesday there were a series of protests around Britain at the weekend where our members targeted Asda, Morrisons and the Co-operative supermarkets. These protests were extremely effective at raising the simple issue to consumers: that the farmers who supply milk to these retailers do not receive a price that reflects the cost of production for their milk.

“As I write, the poster campaign on NFU online naming and shaming these three retailers has had huge impact. The image has been shared nearly 18 thousand times and can be printed out to take with you on future demonstrations. The media coverage the plight of dairy farmers has received has been phenomenal.

“On that note, the NFU is completely behind more peaceful protests which highlight the crisis facing many dairy farmers in Britain and I hope that more of you will find time to give up another hour or two this weekend. These demonstrations have huge impact. No retailer enjoys being shamed in this way on their own doorstep. Believe me, it is making a difference. You can find the material you will need – posters, fliers here.

“While the public work goes on outside retailers to educate and inform the public, there is a significant amount of work behind the scenes. We know that a consumer message has to be simple in order to be effective. But we also know that the situation many dairy farmers find themselves in has come about because of a very complex and opaque supply chain.

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“We will continue to put pressure on the processors to rescind the price cuts. I have cleared my diary on Friday and am planning to fly to Denmark to meet with Arla then. I hope there will be further meetings with other processors to follow. We are also actively engaging with all the retailers. Senior staff members met with Sainsbury’s on Monday and I met the boss of Tesco on Monday evening. I’ve also spoken this week to the Co-operative and will be meeting Morrisons later in the week.

“We are also writing this week to discounters and major non-retail buyers of liquid milk setting out our demands for a reversal of the price cuts from 1 August.

Asda’s announcement that it will ensure that the planned price cut won’t impact on its direct suppliers is welcome but still leaves the price below the cost of production and is not enough.

“We are continuing our negotiations to get a satisfactory voluntary code on dairy contracts. Dairy Crest’s announcement that it is proposing to move to a 3 month termination date in supply contracts is a good step forward, although there are strings attached.

“Over the summer we want you all to lobby your MPs to bring in legislation on dairy contracts. We have got legal advice that Jim Paice is mistaken in his view that EU legislation prevents us going down this road; we will share this with you, with some briefing on lobbying MPs, later this week.

“We hope that the retailers, food businesses and processors who are behind the crisis which dairy farmers face do meet this August 1st deadline in the face of such public pressure. If they do not then I will look to count on your support on August 2nd. Further details will follow but any action we support will be peaceful, legal but very visible.

“In the meantime print the poster, support your local demonstrations and keep campaigning for the reversal of these cuts to ensure a future for British dairying.”

NFU President Peter Kendall