Cheese producers have become the latest target for Farmers For Action, which has threatened protests at the cheesemaking factories of Dairy Crest and Lactalis McLelland.

The protest group which two weeks ago announced plans to build its own powdered milk plant to gain better milk prices for UK farmers said it was furious with Dairy Crest and Lactalis McLelland over the prices paid to farmers.

FFA chairman David Handley said the group had spoken to Dairy Crest in late February and to Lactalis two weeks ago about price rises for farmers who supply milk for Cathedral City, Davidstow (Dairy Crest) and Seriously Strong (Lactalis). The talks had led nowhere, claimed Handley.

Last week, Dairy Crest announced price increases for its non-aligned liquid milk-supplying farmers and for those supplying milk into its milk&more delivery service, but no such increases were offered for farmers supplying milk into its cheese brands.

In contrast, smaller producers such as Wyke Farms and Barbers have recently announced increases, with Wyke upping its average price by 2.2ppl to circa 28ppl and Barbers increasing its standard price 1.5ppl to 27.8ppl from 1 April.

FFA is now threatening action. "We've told Dairy Crest in no uncertain terms that there's an intention to protest at its Davidstow and Nuneaton plants," Handley said. FFA had also informed Lactalis that it would consider protesting outside its Dumfries plant, he added.

Dairy Crest said it "pays a fair milk price and has, over the years, paid a substantial premium for milk at its Davidstow factory." Lactalis declined to comment.

Cathedral City and Seriously are the two biggest Cheddar brands in the UK, with sales of a respective £208.7m and £72.2m [Nielsen MAT 2 Oct 2010].

Meanwhile, FFA has broken off its agreement announced in January to work with the NFU dairy team, following comments made by the NFU in an article published by The Grocer last week on FFA plans to build its milk powder plant.