Farmers planning to blockade Müller’s dairy plant in Market Drayton tonight (6 October) have been urged to “stop and think” by the processor.
Lobby group Farmers for Action (FFA) announced over the weekend that it was planning its first protest from 8pm tonight over the continuing fall in farmgate milk prices.
Müller UK & Ireland employs more than 800 people at the plant, which produces yoghurt and distributes locally sourced farm milk to its liquid milk dairies.
The processor’s CEO Ronald Kers said action by “militants” would inflict further damage on an industry that was already under severe pressure.
“These militants seem intent on making the UK an unattractive prospect for investment,” he said. “The consequences for the entire British agricultural industry could be disastrous.”
Kers added that the drop in prices was a result of a global imbalance between supply and demand and said farms in the UK had increased production by more than one billion litres of milk this year - almost an extra litre for every ten produced last year.
“Some of this decrease in commodity prices is being reflected in the farmgate milk price. While disappointed, most farmers accept this is the nature of the milk market,” he said.
Kers warned the FFA’s action would add “substantial cost” and make it harder for processors to recover from the impact of the slump.
Speaking at the weekend, former environment secretary Owen Patterson MP described FFA’s plans for action as “a stupid thing to do”. He said a blockade would achieve nothing, apart from discouraging investment, and noted there remained a large contrast in milk production costs among farmers.
Kers said Müller and its farmer representative group, the Müller Wiseman Milk Group Board, was currently investigating how both parties could identify mutually beneficial ways of mitigating the problem of falling farmgate prices.
This would involve greater collaboration with farmers over how they forecasted production levels.
A spokesman for Müller UK & Ireland said the project was expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“Current milk production is above even the most optimistic forecasting of our farmers,” he said.
“If we can get more accuracy into these forecasts, we could solve a lot of the industry’s current problems and better plan ahead.”
He added there was a “strong desire” among the farmer board to “work with us and look at a mutually beneficial way of improving the situation”.