UK - There was standing room only at a Farmers For Action (FFA) meeting on Thursday night as dairy industry players debated how to address the UK’s current milk price crisis.
Farmers descended on Bakewell livestock market to contribute to the lobbying group’s latest attempt to unify producer action in response to continuing price cuts from dairy processors.
Speaking at the Semex dairy conference in Glasgow earlier this week, FFA chairman David Handley made headlines when he threatened to quit dairying in the spring unless prices lift.
He, along with others in the industry, see no reason why the world dairy market should plague UK farmers given 85 per cent of their production is utilised domestically.
The conference was covered by mainstream television media, which included a Sky News interview with NFU President Meurig Raymond.
Out of the limelight, many farmers took to twitter this week to reach consumers with messages about good and bad supermarkets providing different farmgate prices.
Rather than focus on price, weekly twitter discussion #AgriChatUK yielded suggestions that milk taste and quality should be promoted more, with many calling for commercial milk advertising campaigns.
Using the hashtag #sosdairy, twitter users have posted pictures of milk being drunk around the house to raise general awareness. The hashtag became an online meeting place during the 2012 dairy crisis which spawned the #sosDairy song.
Just like in 2012, large retailers, as well as the processing middle ground, have come under fire as price adjustments are made following the Global Dairy Trade Price Index halving in nine months.
The dramatic switch in dairying fortunes means farmers are now receiving around 12 pence per litre less than the spring of last year. The NFU and DairyUK have assured that global demand will grow, although markets will be tough for the months ahead.
First Milk suppliers were hit particularly hard when they were told last week that they would not be paid for a fortnight because of cash flow issues.
In the meanwhile, the UK’s largest farmer owned cooperative has steadied the financial ship and now says it is on a sure footing after several restructuring measures.
Producer levy board DairyCo has offered consultant support for English farmers in their own cash flow predicaments.
Drawn up after consulting with banks and business and industry experts, the service aims to advise on the year ahead, enabling, if needed, informed discussion with lenders and others.
For the rest of 2015, DairyUK chairman Billy Keane has said farmers need “unstinting support of government”, at both national and European level, a month after the European Commission reassured that the dairy sector is the “while gold” of the coming decade.
Top image via Shutterstock