Britain's hard-pressed dairy farmers have been promised more money for their milk since early spring. But it is taking a long time to turn the ship around after three years of steadily falling milk prices and an ever-bigger squeeze on margins. After a 3% fall in the average milk price last year, though, the industry now says better prices are definitely on the way. The first wave of milk rises began in March, when the major supermarkets raised the retail price of liquid milk by the equivalent of about 1.7p per litre. At the time it was claimed 1.3ppl of this would trickle down to the farmer, and in April and May some patchy increases were made, although several major processors have not passed back the full amount. So far, farmgate prices have sharpened by 0.5-1.3ppl (an improvement of 3%-7%). Tesco raised hopes of a further rise in April when it launched a scheme for a dedicated milk pool paying farmers 22ppl - an uplift of over 20% on the average milk price. No extra money has yet come through and some observers say it will take Tesco until the winter to implement its scheme. Few farmers whose milk is used for manufacture have seen a significant increase. The final major development recently has been the exceptional rise in most dairy product prices across the whole of the EU and in international markets (see left). If these increases were fed through into milk prices then UK farmers could enjoy an extra 3-5ppl for their milk before the year is out. This process is only being held back by the fact that cheese prices have not yet moved up significantly. But they surely will, because otherwise milk will be diverted from making cheese into other more rewarding outlets. Michael Bessey