Farmers protest for fair dairy deal

Jean McLean (centre), who was co-ordinating the protest, with other dairy farmers.

Jean McLean (centre), who was co-ordinating the protest, with other dairy farmers.

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FARMERS took to the streets of Peterhead today to highlight the crisis over dairy prices.

Members of the National Farmers Union Scotland and Farmers for Action protested outside the town’s Iceland and Farmfoods stores throughout the day.

Cllr Stephen Smith, Eilidh Whiteford MP, William McLean and Jean McLean.

Cllr Stephen Smith, Eilidh Whiteford MP, William McLean and Jean McLean.

It coincided with similar protests in Inverurie and Forfar.

Leaflets were handed out to explain the crisis situation regarding prices our dairy famers are being paid for their milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt and cream products. The teams of dairy farmers also asked members of the public to sign a petition flyers and make comments, which were then presented to store managers at the end of each visit.

Neither Farmfoods nor Iceland have made any increase in their purchasing prices paid to the processors, despite pressure from the industry sector.

In each of the locations where protests were held, including Peterhead, the farmers protested at Farmfoods at 10am and Iceland at 12noon, staying at each location for an hour and a half.

At Farmfoods, the protestors secured more than120 signatures from members of the public in just 90 minutes, with those signatures due to be passed on to the store’s regional manager.

The Inverurie team had live dairy calves on board a trailer for the public to see.

Commenting on the situation, Jean McLean, who is a dairy farmer at New Deer and co-ordinated the protest, said: “It costs 30p per litre to produce the milk but the farmer will get only 24p per litre. This represents a £60,000-70,000 loss per producer per year.

“Unless urgent action is taken, many more dairy farmers will go out of business,” she added.

Bruce Mackie, a dairy farmer from Longside, said: “We provide employment in rural areas. If you are an arable farmer you might not employ any staff, but a dairy farmer might employ four or five.

“Some retailers are paying a fair price, for example, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, M&S and Tesco. But other retailers, including Farmfoods, Lidl and Iceland, are not. That’s why we are encouraging consumers to buy from companies who are paying a fair price”, he explained.

Norman Poots, a dairy farmer at Blackhill Farm, added: “18 years ago, milk was 28p per litre, now it’s down to 23p. Back then, there were around 140 dairies in the Aberdeenshire area. Now there are only around 40. Soon there will be no dairies left.

“We have a processing plant in Aberdeen, yet we are bringing milk up here from down south, which is bad for the environment. It doesn’t make sense,” he added.

Banff and Buchan MP, Dr Eilidh Whiteford, who visited the farmers outside Iceland, said: “Farmers are under immense pressure. I attended a rally on this issue recently. Nigel Miller spoke at the event and said ‘the tyranny of discretionary pricing must end’ - and I agree with him.

“When you factor in vets’ bills, administration costs and looking after the cows, it is very expensive. Costs are being pushed down the supply chain. The situation we have at the moment is not sustainable, that is why I am delighted to be supporting the farmers today”, she added.

Peterhead South and Cruden councillor Stephen Smith, who also attended, said: “I am very happy to come along and show support for Buchan farmers. It is scandalous that large, multi-national businesses are not paying local producers a fair price for a quality product. Public reaction today has been very favourable and I hope this will put pressure on supermarkets to reconsider”.