People have been speculating for several weeks that dairy farmers will strike. Last week, farmers finally took action, refusing to accept the low price given by suppliers for a litre of milk. The price war had begun.
Star chef and food campaigners Jamie Oliver Hugh and Fearnley-Whittingstall both took action in agreement with the farmers protesting. In a letter wrote to The Times, they urged customers to boycott supermarkets and refuse to buy the milk that leaves the farmers in loss. For every litre of milk made, it costs the farmers 29 pence to produce. Yet many large-chain supermarkets are paying farmers only 25 pence a litre.
Charlotte Hemingway lives in a farming community, where farmers rely on their products being sold, and thinks more should be done to give farmers a fair deal. “It is an unfair process of the superstores [to undercut the farmers]. The price of milk is always going to rise, why can’t the cost of buying it rise too? We should do more to keep our British farming alive.”
However, there is some hope. Several large supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer have been praised for providing farmers a fair deal in prices of milk. Waitrose is another that has also been awarded recognition for its fair contract.
Known for dropping prices, Asda and Morrisons (including dairy processors Arla and Dairy Crest) have received criticism by underpaid milk producers.
Aaron Bell, former till operator at Sainsbury’s, believes the farmers are justified for taking action.
“Farmers essentially are doing most of the work to get milk. Fair enough, milk needs to be labelled and distributed, but the farmer is the most important player when it comes to the product. Milk is not like any other product; you can’t make it a bright colour and have a superhero on the front saying drink your milk kids! It’s a simple essential product.”
Only a few days ago, a demonstration was held by dairy farmers outside the Highland’s first Asda. The same day, just hours later, government ministers, dairy farmers and milk processing firms were in discussion over the protests leading to promising actions.
An agreement was formed on the broad principles of the deal, allowing farmers in the future more bargaining power. For many, this is a positive step forward.
Criticised superstores have addressed the concerns of the farmers and have started to acknowledge the financial pressures they face.
The spokeswoman for Asda told the BBC: “That is why on Tuesday last week we committed to increasing the premium paid to our 272 dedicated dairy farmers from 1 pence per litre to 3 pence per litre from 1 August.
“This move is worth around £30,000 per annum to the average Asda Dairylink farmer.”