Farmers react to ‘devastating’ cuts

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A WHITBY farmer has reacted angrily to a spate of milk price cuts which comes into force today and that he says will seriously jeopardise the future of the dairy industry.

Tom Cummins farms 200 cows at his Russell Hall Farm in Stainsacre, producing 1.6 million litres of milk per year, and he said that the liquid processors’ “night of long knives” would see a typical dairy producer in the region facing an income reduction of around £1,500 a month.

Mr Cummins is also a board member of the National Farmers’ Union and added: “How regional producers will cope with this price squeeze is anyone’s guess, but speaking for myself and many of the farmers I talk to, the only option will be to increase our borrowing – and that’s a very scary proposition.

“I really do feel that these cuts are completely unnecessary and that makes the destruction they are wreaking on our business all the harder to swallow.”

Regional dairy processor Paynes Dairies and two other farmer co-operatives, First Milk and Milk Link, are to cut their milk prices by up to two pence per litre from today.

Dennis Gibb, Ponteland producer and dairy board member, said: “The NFU has been campaigning hard for better contracts and if we ever needed evidence of how unfair the current contractual situation is, we need look no further than the events of the last two weeks.

“What we have now are not contracts. They are a buyer’s charter that effectively leaves producers in the position of having to accept whatever scraps we are thrown.”

Today’s news coincides with a crucial meeting of the dairy supply chain forum in London with Farming Minister Jim Paice.

Top of the agenda will be progress towards achieving an industry voluntary code of practice designed to improve contractual conditions and deliver a fairer balance of power.

“This will be a vital meeting today,” added north east dairy board chairman David Shaw.

“The fact that we are talking about this with the Government is due largley to pressure from the NFU, but urgent action is now needed if we are to see the dairy sector in this region survive, never mind thrive. Hopefully we will see some tangible results from today’s summit.”