Final FDF post: ‘Divide and rule’ strategy continues to weaken food producers

20 10 2014


fdf2The whole spectrum of British food production is at risk. All food producers should get cost of production plus – a fair deal.

Today dairy farmers are protesting, egg, poultry, pigmeat, fruit and vegetable farmers are also periodically deprived of a fair price. If producers continue to leave agriculture the only alternative is foreign or mega-farmed milk and other produce – an appalling prospect for several reasons, not least the question of food security. There are many in power who are promoting imports, exports and large-scale factory farming.

The writer fears that only if producers of perishable food  combine can they achieve a fair price.

FDF council member David Handley recently, via his wife, asked to be taken off the list, because – it seems – they did not share this belief. (But note that now the forthcoming demo will be cross-sector:

We thank the most prolific farmer-contributors, Kathleen Calvert, Hilary Wilson, Michael Hart, William Taylor and Pippa Woods. The loss of the late Andrew Hemming’s patience and wisdom is felt. We redirect readers here and abroad (noting last week’s increase in Swedish readers) to the Food Security website. We have also valued the support of Localise West Midlands, where readers still ‘find’ news of the Fair Deal awards.

Any future contributions will be seen on the Food Security website.



Campaign tactics

20 10 2014


In Radio 4’s Farming Today coverage of the Morrison’s demo, David Handley was stressing that farmers need profit just like other commodity producers.

Correct – and it was good to note that he did not refer to specific sums because the writer has heard the reaction of members of the public sympathetic to the dairy farmers’ cause being daunted by references to £70,000 losses.  Another farmer who is well aware of this outreach problem says:

It is not about why shouldn’t farmers make a profit – it is about how you present the financial facts on income to the media and to the public. He continues:

To the public, “income” is what is in their pay packet, it is not “income” as thought of by farmers. To them, income is the money they get for their produce from which they have to pay the costs of production which either leaves them a profit or more likely a loss, at the moment, in milk production.

So if a farmer is reported in the media as having had a £70,000 loss in income, the public viewing it will ask themselves how much was he earning in the first place, seeing not a loss in income from the sale of produce, from which production costs have to be taken but a loss of £70,000 from his pay packet.

The public do fully understand if farmers say for example ” I was getting 35p a litre and now I am getting 27p a litre” a simple clean message easily understood and accurate. Because that is just like them getting less pay per hour for doing the same job.

Global market scapegoat for ‘buyers discretion’?

20 10 2014

David Williams (FFA) was heard on Radio 4’s Farming Today coverage of the Morrison’s demo commenting on the allegations that milk prices are being reduced because of the state of the global market.


He challenged the concept asking if a perishable pint of milk can be produced in Italy and imported to Britain more cheaply than the pint he produces. Dairyco’s graphic (below) appears to indict the buyer.

fdf dairyco

These issues will in future be covered on the Food Security website.

FFA’s Andrew Hemming had the right message: Farming Today, please note

15 10 2014

rod connorsIn a brief item, advertised as campaigning for a fair price for British milk, Anna Hill interviewed Rod Connors of BSG Marketing (‘We create champion brands’).

His answer: a Fair Trade-style campaign –an idea discussed for more than ten years with a variety of organisations by Bruce Crowther and Michael Hart.


Connors’ version will be welcomed by politicians and corporates: Fair Trade with a difference – the consumer pays more, not the supermarkets or processors

andrew hemmingThe late Andrew Hemming, vice-chairman of Farmers for Action, a patient and persuasive negotiator, really connected with shoppers when lobbying on supermarket forecourts – sometimes with cow.

He told them that they were paying enough and that producers just wanted a fair share of the milk price by reducing the supermarket and processor profit margins.

The Fairtrade producer gets a fair price from the initial buyer

The Fairtrade movement aims to ensure that the buyer gives the producer a fair price- and though the consumer does pay more for Fairtrade products, presumably to cover the overheads of this growing organisation.

Modern ethics lag far behind the Middle Ages

religion rise of capitalism tawney coverIn the Middle Ages canon law stipulated a fair price – covering the cost of production plus profit.

Historian Tawney: Prices could be fixed by the producer guided by a consideration of ‘what he must charge in order to maintain his position, and nourish himself suitably in it, and by a reasonable estimate of his expenditure and labour’ “.

Now an unfair price for primary producers leading to maximum corporate profits for the middlemen is seen as good business practice.


Justice does not factor in their thinking.

Dairy farmers face revenue losses of 20-26%

9 10 2014

Philip Case wrote a good FWI report of the latest Muller Wiseman milk protest. Read it in full here.

ffa 500 muller oct 14

At least 500 dairy farmers, their families and friends staged a protest against falling milk prices outside the Muller Wiseman processing factory in Market Drayton on Monday night (6 October) to demonstrate their anger over plunging farmgate milk prices. They blockaded the Muller plant from 9pm onwards and prevented lorries from accessing the site.

Lobby group Farmers For Action (FFA), which represents about one-third of the UK’s dairy farmers, organised the protest and said more dairy processors and supermarkets would be targeted in the coming weeks.

ffa 500 muller 2 oct 14FFA chief executive and Monmouthshire dairy farmer David Handley said talks had broken down between the two parties and protesting was the only course of action to move things forward. bcg“How he [Ronald Kers of Muller] can turn round and classify the milk group he was talking to for 45 minutes on the phone on Sunday as a bunch of militants is outrageous,” Mr Handley told Farmers Weekly.

“It’s inflammatory language and it’s not helpful. During our conversations over the past week, he mentioned at least two or three times that farmers were producing too much milk. But what he doesn’t tell the media is the state of the profit and loss accounts within the business of Muller Wiseman.” See and hear more on the Farmers Guardian video here.

Mr Handley urged Muller Wiseman to:

  • guarantee no further price cuts this year “unless they could be justified with numbers and open-book accountancy”;
  • re-examine all the cuts month by month and show farmers “where the money has gone and why” and
  • work with retailers to increase the value of milk up the supply chain.

Mr Handley said up to and including the 1 November cuts, dairy farmers should be owed an extra 4p/litre, according to FFA figures. On average, the cost of production for a litre of milk is 30p.

Though the NFU said some dairy farmers were being paid as little as 25p/litre, losing thousands of pounds and threatening their businesses, the union said it would not be backing direct action against retailers and processors.

An NFU spokesman said: “The NFU continues to talk with processors, supermarkets and government. We remain committed to fighting for functioning markets and fairer contracts. “This ultimately is the best way to achieve farmgate milk prices that fairly reflect the value of milk.”

Dairy analyst Ian Potter questioned why farming unions and the main dairy processors, including Muller, had urged farmers to increase milk production earlier this year:

“Up until this year, Muller were paying a bonus to new recruits and existing producers to produce more milk. If you ring up Muller now, you’ve got no chance of getting a contract, no matter how special you are. We have gone very quickly from asking for new recruits to saying: ‘how quickly can we get rid of you?’”

ffa morrisons bridgwaterEarlier today the BBC reported last night’s milk protest in Bridgwater, Somerset More than 50 tractors were blocking two entrances to the Morrisons distribution centre near Bridgwater in Somerset, several Morrisons vehicles were stuck at the depot and the protest was affecting the A38 into Bridgwater and junction 23 of the M5, and diversions were in place.

Dairy crisis: a 26% fall in price over a six month period for First Milk liquid contracted members – and which food sector will be next?

3 10 2014

Ian Potter’s latest mailing notifies us that – from 1st November – First Milk liquid contracted members’ standard litre price will fall to 24.1ppl ( They will have seen 8.4ppl (26%) wiped off their milk price in only 6 months.

tracy and pigTracy Worcester, director of the “Farms not Factories” campaign is fighting the future predicted for all farmers: to survive you will have to ‘factory farm’. Her focus has been on the pig sector for several years, but people involved in all forms of animal-related farming will be urged to go down this path – and export. Read about the Derbyshire proposal here.

Processors are blaming the world price for milk, which has fallen after a 5% increase in production, which has not been matched by demand, but as Neil Parish MP says there is a large home market and a ‘reasonable price’ should be ‘thrashed out’.

neil parish mpNeil Parish MP for Tiverton and Honiton, who managed his family’s farm in Somerset before entering politics, is chairing a new Dairy All Party Parliamentary Group to focus on supporting the development of a sustainable and profitable dairy supply chain and will debate key issues for the industry. Dairy UK and The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers will provide the secretariat

Mr. Parish said: “The dairy sector is a great British industry which employs several thousands of people and produces a tremendous array of nutritious food. It is right that this contribution to the nation’s health and economy is recognised by parliament and that all political parties are fully up to speed with developments within the dairy industry”.

Dr Judith Bryans, Chief Executive of Dairy UK, said: “The establishment of an APPG on dairy is a step change in the recognition of the importance of the industry and the wide range of safe, wholesome and nutritious foods it produces”.

Nick Everington, Chief Executive of RABDF, said: “RABDF is very supportive of the Dairy APPG. It will provide the industry with direct access to MPs interested in the dairy sector to discuss immediate issues, as well as those for the long term benefit of British dairy producers”.

More to the point: Neil Parish voiced the need for a Dairy Summit to thrash out a reasonable price and give more powers to the Groceries Code Adjudicator.

Divide and rule: aligned and non-aligned producers

2 10 2014

pedigree holsteins clithero 

A Lancashire dairy farmer writes:  “Dedicated suppliers, much trumpeted by the NFU, are anathema to non aligned dairy farmers and one of the worst possible things in the dairy industry at present as they lead to extreme confusion, an elitism among dairy producers, and a distorted dairy market”.

Any online search reveals that the first and deepest price cuts are always directed at non-aligned dairy farmers, but this week it was reported that Tesco will even cut the price it pays its group of aligned suppliers, via the Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group (TSDG, 7% of cherry picked producers), by 2.19p to 32.01p/litre from 1 November – far more than is offered to no the non-aligned – now generally about 29ppl and for some as low as 27ppl.

Some farmers believe the NFU does not really care – that all they care about is their salary and their own survival. 

The farmer continues: “I met David Handley and Mansell Raymond and spoke to them after a FFA meeting in 2012. While I felt David Handley was genuine and took time to listen and answer my questions, Mansell Raymond was quite rude, uninterested in anything I had to say and did not appear to want to answer any questions I put to him. I felt he thought it was beneath him to have to speak to me.

“Mansell Raymond harps on as a spokesman for the NFU but as one of those elite TSDG suppliers he is not going to rock any boat any more than the next man”.

“What good is a Groceries Code Adjudicator to non aligned producers?”

As yet the GCA mills are grinding very slowly. After the findings of the YouGov survey were released in June, comes a record of the GCA’s latest meeting attended by Code Compliance Officers, a YouGov representative and several large retailers. No food producers representing those who had expressed the concerns highlighted in the survey. The dairy farmer ends:

“As an individual I feel more or less powerless against this commercial corporate  monopoly that the GCA can do nothing to control”.

NEXT: MP Neil Parish forms new Dairy All Party Parliamentary Group.