Dark days for 1066 country dairy farmers

Dairy farmers are suffering from the falling price of milk.
Dairy farmers are suffering from the falling price of milk.

Farmers from across 1066 country have been speaking about the damaging impact of the milk-price crisis.

The falling price of milk has already forced many farmers out of business while many of the remaining ones say they are operating at a loss.

Michael Matthews, of Sandhall Farm, Hooe, said he had seen a huge amount of closures during his two decades in the area.

He said Russia and China stopping their imports of UK milk was just one of the factors which led to supply outweighing the demand.

“Dairy farmers are prepared to run farms at a loss because they love the animals and are prepared to work for less,” he told the Observer this week.

“We need more protection from the imports and from ourselves.”

Graham Westacott, of Hinxden Farm, Cranbrook, said profit margins on milk were nonexistent for dairy farmers.

“In broad terms we get 23p per litre of milk, we’d need 29 to break even and even that gives you nothing to invest or pay off borrowing,” he said.

Mr Westacott said the closure and down sizing of dairy farms was not just affecting his industry.

Farmers’ inability to invest also impacted on the wider local economy, with the manufacturing industry particularly affected because farmers cannot afford new machinery.

Mr Westacott said although the problem was complicated, supermarkets were largely to blame: “The problem is that they continually use milk as a loss leader or a promotional item.”

Supermarkets have been under growing pressure in recent weeks following nationwide protests from farmers which have included ‘milk trolley challenges’ and taking cattle into supermarkets.

There have been calls for the food industry to support dairy farmers in their hour of need.

Despite farming leaders and ministers saying they held productive talks on the future of dairy farming in the UK earlier this week, Mr Westacott is not optimistic about the future.

He said banks would eventually take decisions out of the farmers’ hands forcing them to close. He added this would lead to more milk being imported which would not be of an ‘acceptable’ standard.

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