Supermarkets say milk war has had little effect

Farmers in Wales were protesting at the low prices retailer pay for their products. The strike against supermarkets, described as a milk war, saw farmers pouring thousands of litres of milk down the drain.
Other produce such as vegetables and meat were not being supplied to stores until the weekend, said the Farmers for Action.
However the supermarkets stated that the strike had not affected their stock levels.
Farmers for Action claim the presently they have the support of 3,500 producers across the UK and they anticipate more will join the action.
The group are protesting because of the amount they are being paid for a litre of milk. Farmers are currently being paid 17p per litre, compared to 27p per litre in 1995.
David Handley, Chairman of Farmers for Action and a dairy farmer from Monmouthshire said they wanted retailers to pay more for the produce even if that means cutting their profit margins.
He said, “The support all over the country is tremendous and is growing. I would imagine that we will get people to realise we mean business.
“Some commodities could run short today, so we are advising that consumers get their shopping done by the weekend because we don’t want to see people without food.
“Our message is very simple. We are not asking for the consumer to pay more. Let’s have some of the margin back that the supermarkets are holding on to.”
Judie Allen, a tenant farmer near Towcester, Northants, had 6,000 litres of milk spread onto fields rather than being taken away for bottling.
“We want to try to illustrate to the retailers and the processors that up to now it has all been very one-sided – they have had all the say,” she said.
“Dairy farmers are all feeling the pinch. We all feel we are not getting a fair share of the retail price. Everybody agrees that we are not paid enough.”
The major supermarkets claimed they were so far unaffected by the protests.
A Tesco spokesperson said, “Our aim is to work with our suppliers to create sustainable relationships with farmers.
“We believe the most positive thing we can do is to continue to work with the supply chain to grow the amount of UK products that we sell and develop new opportunities.”
Asda said it had a “direct relationship” with 650 dedicated farmers that meant it was not hit by the Farmers for Action protest.
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said, “This hasn’t affected supplies at all. We did have contingency plans in place but we haven’t had to call on them at all.”
Somerfield and Kwik Save were unaffected and were not predicting any shortages either.
And a Morrisons spokeswoman added, “It has had no effect. We are monitoring the situation and don’t anticipate any problems for customers.”
Gareth Vaughan, president of the FUW, said although he was protesting, the union would let farmers decide if they could afford to strike.
He said, “I’m not going to be selling any stock and quite a few of our members are doing the same. But we understand that some farmers who have tight cash flows will not be able to strike.
“We want to show the supermarket buyers that they cannot take our supplies for granted.
“It’s a tragedy that some farmers are pouring their milk supplies down the drain. Some of them are signed up to dairy contracts and could face penalties of five pence a litre if they don’t meet their targets.
“The price of beef cattle in Ireland increased by 12 pence a kilo on Wednesday. That suggests to me that the market can stand to pay more to the producer, contrary to what we’ve been told.
“I doubt it will come to supermarkets importing milk from China. Their consumer needs are growing and they will need their products themselves.”
The position of the National Farmers Union is that they would not be backing the three-day protest action.
A spokesman said, “The NFU understands the frustration many farmers and growers have concerning the price pressures involved in supplying to retail customers.
“We believe, however, that strike action leading to food being removed from the market place will not achieve what farmers actually want – a more sustainable price for their produce.
“Furthermore, we cannot condone farmers breaking legally-binding contracts with their customers. The NFU will continue its work towards a feasible solution for all farmers and growers to this difficult problem.”

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