Category Archives: Food processors

A fair farmgate price for milk: Crediton Dairy and Barbers Farmhouse Cheesemakers


Ian Potter reports that Crediton Dairy is to hold its ‘chart topping’ farmgate milk price at 31ppl until at least March 1st.

The Crediton Dairy Supply Group recognises that, first and foremost, central to both recruiting and retaining farmers, is to pay a competitive, sustainable and attainable price for the milk they produce.

Devon-based Crediton Dairy is a leading supplier of 100% British milks and creams to all of the UK’s major retailers and food service businesses. It is accredited by the Soil Association and are the UK’s only producer of Organic Long Life milk.

By working closely with 70 local farmers, within a 25-mile radius, the dairy has a secure, sustainable and fully traceable supply of high quality, farm assured milk.

All the supplying farmers are fully accredited to the Red Tractor Assurance for Farms – Dairy Scheme and meet the highest standards of animal health and welfare, food safety, traceability and environmental protection.


Barbers Farmhouse Cheesemakers will also hold its farmgate milk price.

Barbers manufacturing standard litre price has been a healthy 31.193ppl and its liquid standard litre 30.074ppl. – until at least March 1st.

The Barber family has been farming and making cheese in Ditcheat, Somerset since 1833 making us the oldest surviving cheesemaking business in the UK. Farming and cheesemaking have long been vital parts of the local economy and Barbers specialises in making West Country farmhouse cheddar and work with many neighbouring farmers who supply additional milk, supporting the local farming economy.

The Fairtrade ethos for coffee and other products is widely accepted in Britain and its principle of economic justice should be applied to food produced in Britain – giving food producers a farmgate price which covers the full costs of production.






Saluting the French President – the first head of state to seek fair food legislation?

Macron: “We should allow farmers not to rely on subsidies anymore and therefore ensure than they be paid a fair amount for their work.”

Reuters reports that President Emmanuel Macron – during a meeting at Rungis international food market in Rungis, near Paris – has called for changes to France’s food chain on Wednesday to ensure that farmers, who have been hit by squeezed margins and a retail price war, are paid fairly.

Macron said that he supported a new type of contract, based on farmers’ production costs

In common with Farmers for Action (NI) which has joined a producer organization (Farm Groups) he is proposing a change in legislation – ‘a new type of contract, based on farmers’ production costs, which would require stronger producer organizations and a change in legislation’.

Prices are currently defined by buyers tempted to pressure prices, leaving many farmers unable to cover their costs.

The changes are part of a wide field-to-fork review promised by Macron during his presidential campaign as a third of farmers, an important constituency in French politics, earned a third of the net minimum wage.

Macron endorsed a proposal from the workshops to create a reversed contract starting from farmers, to food processors and to retailers. This would ensure a better spread of added value along the chain.

Just Food adds: “He promised to shake up the current “balance of power” between producers, food processing firms and retailers. A tougher line would be taken on low prices and discounting and a higher loss-leader threshold for retailers established, Macron underlined . . .

“Legislation will be prepared early next year reversing the current system of food pricing. In future, prices will be calculated on the basis of production costs instead of being imposed by retailers”.

First published here:




No fair trade here: cream and butter prices rise but farm-gate prices for milk don’t

The Financial Times reports that a reduction in the milk supply, due to a cold spring and dairy farmers leaving, has led to prices of butter and cream rising 18.7% in the year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. But despite “record prices” for wholesale cream and butter in recent weeks, the National Farmers Union point out farm-gate prices for milk have continued to fail to keep in step.

BBC online reports that Arla’s CEO Peter Tuborgh said producers “put the brakes on” in 2016, in the wake of previous overproduction of milk and consequently lower prices and Michael Oakes, chairman of the National Farmers Union dairy board, added that UK supply had fallen partly because so many farmers “decided enough was enough during that downturn”. Many farmers have often had to sell milk for less than the cost of producing it and so – understandably – the number of UK dairy producers has fallen.

The National Farmers’ Union said the “constant boom-and-bust dairy market cycle” helped “no-one, most of all farmers” and expressed concern about the lack of strong upward movement in the farm-gate milk price.

Milk buyers are worried about milk volumes falling but, the NFU spokesperson added, “Confidence within dairy farming is at an all-time low [due to] mistrust in the market dynamics and suspicion about how milk buyers are treating their supply base, coupled with the lack of direction on the impact of Brexit on the dairy sector.”

Post-Brexit, will the UK government ensure that ‘ordinary’ farmers receive a fairer proportion of the agricultural payments and turn away from the practice of subsidising offshore companies and rich individuals?

And will the Groceries Code Adjudicator, who places great emphasis on scrutinising supermarkets give more time to food producers and address the issue of unjust farmgate prices?





Food security 10: British dairy production at risk


Pre-empting qualms about the health impacts of dairy products, from Lancashire dairy farmer Tom Rigby’s retweet we note the findings of professor of food chain nutrition Ian Givens and his colleagues from Reading University, Copenhagen University and Wageningen University in the Netherlands. They analysed 29 studies involving 938,465 participants from around the world undertaken over the last 35 years, including five done in the UK. “No associations were found for total (high-fat/low-fat) dairy and milk with the health outcomes of mortality, CHD or CVD,” they said. In fact, they added, fermented dairy products may potentially slightly lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

A new hazard is being added to the long-term imposition of payments below the cost of production

As dairy farms close, due to unviable prices, the distances between farms is growing and providing a tanker to collect their milk is too expensive. The East Anglian Times reports that Muller has announced that it will close its Chadwell Heath depot in London and no longer collect the milk from 18 dairy farms across Norfolk, Suffolk. Essex and Kent. This follows the closure of two Scottish plants by Muller last year.

The 18 dairy farms who are to have their milk supply contracts cancelled by Muller have been given 12 months from the end of March to find new buyers for their milk at a price that offers them a viable future – one commentator adds gloomily:

“Given current trends it won’t be long before it will be possible to drive from Dover to York without seeing a single dairy cow”.


A brief history for visiting readers from other countries (left, Jan-May)

The number of dairy farms across the UK has fallen dramatically since the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) was abolished in I993 by a Conservative government that saw it as “anti-competitive”.  In the period 2013-2016 alone, Business Matters reports that 1022 farms have closed. The MMB was created by an act of Parliament in the 1930s to ensure that all UK dairy farmers were paid the same price for their milk and that they shared milk collection charges regardless of where they farmed. This was to stop dairy farmers being bullied by over-powerful dairy companies who were establishing virtual regional monopolies.

Since the MMB was broken up, farmers have had to negotiate terms with processors individually and this ‘free trade’ has benefitted the milk processing companies and now the average price UK dairy farmers received for their milk last year was lower than it was when the MMB was abolished 24 years ago – and that is the main reason that the number of dairy herds in the UK has collapsed.



March of the mega-farms? No, says Helen Browning, “we need to pay our farmers a fair price for food”

Almost one in 10 dairy farms across England and Wales – more than 1000 – have closed in the last three years, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). Their graphic (below) was published on the BBC News website in July.

dairy farm closures 13-16

Up to 30% price cut as inputs cost more

These figures increase fears that the traditional family dairy farm sector is collapsing. There were more than 56,000 dairy farmers working in 1980, but only 14,500 last year. An article in the Guardian reports that in 2016, dairy farmers like Somerset’s dairy farmer James Hole, who supplies milk though a processor to most of the biggest supermarkets, found their milk was worth 30% less than it was this time last year.

Processors prefer to deal with larger producers, avoiding the expense of sending tankers on long journeys to pick up milk from smaller and more remote farms and as dairy farmers on low price contracts increase production in order to increase their income, the. resulting glut on the market has driven prices even lower.

This year’s Kingshay Dairy Costings Focus Report showed the rolling average milk price for Holstein/Friesian milk reducing by 5.7ppl to 24.4ppl with continuing increases in ‘market segmentation’: “The highest 10% paid received 31.3ppl, whereas the lowest 10% averaged 18.7ppl.This gap in the rolling annual price paid has widened to 12.6ppl from 6.9ppl in the year to March 2015,” said Kingshay senior farm services manager Kathryn Rowland.  The report may be downloaded here.

Will production eventually rest with mega farms, warehouse units, currently forming only 2% of dairy farms, compared with as many as 90% in the US? 

factory dairy farm

Or will government intervene to prevent processors from imposing low price contracts on smaller dairy farmers or in future will all cows live in a so-called ‘super dairy’ farms, permanently confined in an industrial-scale building, no longer grazing in fields during the summer months?

Helen Browning, chief executive at the Soil Association, said mega farms were bad for animals and the environment: “Large-scale indoor animal units such as this are common practice in the United States. Experience there has shown that they impact negatively on smaller, family farms, and can have poor environmental and animal health outcomes, as they produce much more manure than the land close by can use, and usually rely on high levels of antibiotics to control disease.

She ends: “The problems facing the pig and dairy industries will not be solved by supersizing production – this fails to deal with the root cause of the issue. It really should not be necessary for a farmer to milk 1,000 cows in order to make a good living. Instead we need to pay our farmers a fair price for food, while expecting the highest standards of care for our environment, animals and health in return.”




Grass-Fed Nation: addressing our diet and carbon emission targets


graham harveyGraham Harvey is the agriculture adviser to ‘The Archers’ radio show, on Europe, subsidies and rural life. After studying agriculture at Bangor university, he became a journalist at Farmers Weekly before moving into script writing, joining The Archers in 1984.

Emma Jacobs writes about him in the Financial Times, after the publication of Grass-Fed Nation:

His book argues that animals that graze on grass are far healthier than those fed on chemically enhanced grains. It is also better for the countryside, as well as for consumers of meat and dairy products. Mr Harvey laments that Britain’s traditional small mixed farms have given way to larger intensive ventures, relying on chemicals and cooped-up animals. “Farmers could be doing better than they are,” he says. “There is too much money going to suppliers of chemicals and technology.”

His challenge to overreliance on processed foodstuffs and chemicals followed on a realisation that his own health was suffering from high cholesterol, raised glucose and blood pressure due to the amount of sugar and white flour he was eating.

grassfed nation coverIn the book he writes:

“If we reared grazing animals solely on their natural food, grass, we’d be growing far fewer cereal crops with their heavy requirement for fossil fertilisers and pesticides.

“We would, in fact, far exceed our carbon emission targets.”

The whole article may be read on but only on subscription it seems.




Nineteen EU states want a total ban on the use of GM food technology; Arla makes a move in the right direction


As discerning Americans are opting for organically grown food and increasing such imports, the Board of Directors of European dairy co-operative Arla have noticed that prices for organic milk continue to hold up well and have now decided to cover the costs of farmer members conversion to GM free feed.

gm free feed

On the other hand, a report issued by America’s National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, a private advisory body, though confirming that there have been no studies into the long-term human health impact of GM food consumption, assert that genetically modified food is safe for human consumption …

The European market is increasingly demanding dairy products from GM free fed cows and customers are willing to pay a price premium. Arla wants to meet this growing demand from the trans-European retailers.

arlaAccording to Chairman Åke Hantoft, Arla already owns the biggest organic milk pool in the world as Swedish farmers have always used GM free feed – so around 20% of Arla’s milk pool already meets this market demand. He wants to attract more farmers who are willing to convert to GM free feed because of the commercial potential – not because Arla’s owners are opposed to GM in principle.

Arla will compensate those farmers who convert to GM free feed and also those who opt for organic conversion:

“Our immediate demand is up to 1bn kg extra milk during the next 12 months and we expect to be able to pay an extra 1 eurocent per kg milk. The market driven compensation will also be paid to all our Swedish farmers, who already use GM free feed. We do not know exactly from when, but we are working fast to unfold the details,” says CEO Peder Tuborgh.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have gone further than this – they want a total ban the growing of GM crops, as do 19 EU states including Germany and France, but the current British government has indicated it is willing to consider allowing, this and meet the needs of already wealthy corporates.