Dairy farmers short-changed

East Anglia's struggling dairy farmers are still being paid below the cost of production for every pint.

East Anglia's struggling dairy farmers are still being paid below the cost of production for every pint.

Milk producers have been short-changed a total of £270m from the entire dairy industry as a result of the depressed prices, the National Farmers' Union has calculated.

Hundreds of producers backed the campaign to highlight the growing threat to the UK milk supply. Every farmer worked out the difference between their production costs and the price paid for a litre of milk.

Norfolk milk producer William Brigham, who farms with his brothers at Lyng, near Dereham, and is the regional chairman of the NFU's milk board said the family business had lost £12,000 in the past year because milk prices were below production costs.

East Anglia's producers lost £4.15m, according to the NFU's dairy invoice campaign, which will be formally launched today at Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

Mr Brigham warned: "The tragedy is if you look at these sectors within the milk business - the processors, retailers and farmers, the only sector, which has not recovered cost is the farmer.

Most Read

"The processor has recovered extra costs - fuel on lorries, cost of plastic bottles, wages. Far from getting more, we're getting less. Our costs keep going up like all other sectors but our returns are actually going the other way."

He said the regional average price between October and March 2006 was 18.05p per litre and during the summer, it fell to 17.5p per litre.

In Norfolk, there are just 81 dairy farmers left.

"If you look back about 10 years, there were 193 milk producers.

"From the middle of June to the middle of August, it cost us an extra 3p per litre in extra feed because the grass had died," he said.

The latest price reduction of 1.09p per litre will cost the region's producers £14,000 a day.

NFU dairy board chairman said: "Unless something is done to reverse the downward price trend in the supply chain then concrete cows

may soon be the only ones

left to see in the countryside."