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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Milk price cut will cost Cumbrian farmers thousands each week

Dairy farmers stand to lose thousands of pounds a week as milk price cuts strike.

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Margaret Wilson: People need to know what is behind anger

First Milk, whose creamery in Aspatria is supplied by hundreds of Cumbrian farmers, this week became the latest company to announce a dramatic drop in what it pays the farmers.

The latest cut of three pence per litre (ppl) will come into effect on October 1. This follows smaller price cuts by other milk buyers.

But some farmers claim they are already plunging deep into the red since payments started plummeting in May.

The latest round of cuts mean some producers in Cumbria could receive less than 25p/litre for milk that costs 30p to produce.

Farms that were barely profitable could be left staring at annual losses of up to £33,000 while larger farms with bigger herds could lose up to £1,200 a day, industry insiders say.

Caught between a UK supermarket price war and a ban by Russia on EU produce, including dairy, which many fear could lead to a glut in Europe, dairy farmers are being asked to take action to help save their industry.

In an attempt to wrestle control of the falling market, Farmers for Action, which staged the SOS Dairy demonstrations in 2012, has asked its members in a letter to support any future protests. Within 24 hours, the group received more than 500 ‘yes’ votes, with farmers from around the country expressing grave concerns over the future of UK farming.

But one north Cumbrian dairy family, who have pledged to join the protest, claims support in the county will be subdued.

“Farmers here are scared about losing their milk contracts. It will not be in their nature to protest. But if you remain silent you get walked over,” said dairy farmer Margaret Wilson.

Mrs Wilson, of Thackwood Farm, Southwaite, said if necessary they would be prepared to travel hundreds of miles to protest after their milk price was cut by 1.1ppl.

“We’re maybe not as badly off as some,” said Mrs Wilson. But she added that the cost of producing a litre of milk – including overheads such as animal feed and vets bills – is between 28 pence and 30 pence a litre for most farmers.

Glyn Lucas, a senior pedigree auctioneer with Harrison and Hetherington in Carlisle, did not view the recent price cuts as a long-term dip. “But if it is, people could go out of business,” he said.

“I had a large dairy producer from the Borders, who is supplying First Milk, telling me he stands to lose up to £1,200 a day with the 3ppl cut.”

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