A dairy farmer has said the industry is still in the midst of a crisis as the fight over the price of milk continues.
Jonny Burridge told the Diss Express British dairy farmers still face a highly uncertain future, with the price milk processors are paying rendering dairy herds unsustainable.
Mr Burridge, who has a 240-strong herd on his family’s farm in Fundenhall, said dairy farmers must get themselves organised again, as momentum gained campaigning on the issue last year diminished as focus shifted to the Olympics, and harvests.
He added: “We must do more to show people this issue is far from over, but it seems every time we do, the rug is pulled from under our feet.
“The price we got per litre dropped by 2p last year, with four days’ notice, absolutely decimating us. Although we have got back to where we were before that cut, we are still nowhere near where we need to be to have a future.”
According to Mr Burridge, the formula the industry uses to determine the price farmers ideally need to be paid by processors per litre of milk is 36p. But, at present, farmers get 31p per litre - about the same amount it costs to produce, and at a time when feed costs are rising due to global pressure on food-stocks.
According to Ellie Cole, who manages a herd of 220 cows in Winfarthing, the price is only at ‘break-even’ level because of a UK milk shortage.
Like Mr Burridge, the arable side of her family’s farm is subsidising the dairy side, and Miss Cole’s fears supermarkets will start importing milk in greater quantities are growing.
Mr Burridge believes today’s problems can be traced back to the Milk Marketing Board being wound up in 1995.
He said there are now probably about 50 dairy herds in Norfolk, with three rumoured to be departing in the near future, compared to more like 150 herds in the mid-1990s.
It is a difficult industry to shop around in for a new buyer, as most farmers are tied to inflexible deals with firms like Dairy Crest - who the Burridges had to give 12 months’ notice to in order to leave.
A spokesperson for Dairy Crest, said: “We aim to pay a fair market-related price for milk, and continue to work closely with our farmers to offer good value to our customers and consumers.
“Over the last year we have increased the price we pay our farmers to reflect their higher costs, fully signed up to the Government’s voluntary code of practice, and brought out a formula-based milk contract.
“Going forward, it is important that everyone in the supply chain pulls together to ensure the sustainability of the UK dairy sector.”
Mr Burridge and two of his cows, Jelly and Jasmine, can often be seen at venues across Norfolk making people aware of the issue, and they will be at The Forum in Norwich on Saturday. He said: “It costs time, and it costs money, but we have got to spread the message.
“The public sympathise with our plight, and most say they’d pay a bit more per litre to help. I paid £1.30 for a 500ml bottle of coke recently, and it’s sad to think all we’re asking for is a few more pence per litre to save an entire industry.”
Mr Burridge added: “Once the herds go from the UK, that’s it - they won’t be back.”