Yorkshire Post: 30 December 2010
Your letter writer Nita Fenton (Yorkshire Post, December 23) says shame on supermarkets for selling a litre of milk for less than a bottle of water.
Shame is perhaps less of a driver than maximum profits to large corporate companies.
In July, Asda prompted a savage retail milk price war, by slashing the price of a standard four pint bottle of milk to 1.25 where it has remained at that low price ever since.
The imbalance of power in the milk supply chain results in any loss on retail promotions invariably landing at the feet of the producer. Promotions of this kind also devalue milk, which is a highly nutritious and valuable staple food.
As other milk buyers cannot compete on price with large companies, it is largest retailers who hold the key to keeping the UK dairy industry sustainable which they are failing to do as their much publicised dedicated retailer contracts are only held by a very small percentage of farms, leaving the rest to face ongoing prices below cost of production.
The farmers who were compelled to protest recently outside supermarkets on bitterly cold nights were supporting Farmers for Action, led by dairy farmer David Handley.
FFA have only come to the fore when all negotiation by others have failed to shame the retailers and the several FFA protests throughout the country at Tesco and Asda distribution depots have been peaceful; indeed protesters have complied fully with requests from police.
The result of daring to challenge the mighty Asda by peaceful protest has led to the issue of an injunction against David Handley and FFA by the Leeds-based company who are the second biggest retailer in the UK and are now owned by Walmart, the largest company in the world.
Their intention is to prevent future protests by any farmers unless they are carried out on strict terms laid out by Asda.
Ironically Asda was formed by a group of Yorkshire farmers in 1965, and given the size and financial means of today’s Asda compared to that of FFA, this modern day David and Goliath situation has also effectively silenced many other supporters of UK dairy farming.
Supermarkets do not want consumers to pay a realistic price for milk even if consumers want to do so, as this is not in the best commercial interest of retailers.
Despite their claims of support for dairy farmers, maximum short-term gains are far more of a concern to large profit-driven retailers than the long-term future of British dairy farmers or the long-term interests of consumers.
Purse power and a refusal to buy cheap milk from any source may now be the only answer, otherwise in the end the consumer will be the loser, not retailers who will seek their profits elsewhere.
Kathleen Calvert, Paythorne, Clitheroe, Lancashire.