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Farming unions in crisis talks amid milk price protests

Four farming unions met today for an emergency summit amid widespread supermarket protests across the UK about "unfair" milk prices.

They say that government, retailers and the food service industry must "step up to the plate" to tackle the crisis facing the British farming industry.

Speaking after the summit, David Handley of Farmers For Action said "I don't think there's any farmer out there at the moment that will accept they can just sit back on their laurels."

The meeting follows days of protests by farmers including Milk Trolley Challenges, blockades at distribution centres and even bringing cattle into supermarkets.

Farmers estimate that it costs between 30 and 32p to produce a litre of milk but the average price paid across the UK is 23.66p - following a drop of 25% in a year.

Dairy farmers call on government, retailers and the food service industry to Credit: PA

Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers Union said farmers were facing "all the risk in these extremely volatile times".

I believe there is now, at long last, a recognition of the dire straits that farmers are finding themselves.

People are losing money. There is no way farmers can sustainably stay in business with these sorts of prices.

There has been a race to the bottom to devalue product. When four pints of highly nutritious milk is selling for less than a bottle of water then there is something wrong in the culture of society.

– Meurig Raymond, NFU president
Meurig Raymond speaking at NFU conference earlier this year Credit: PA

Scotland's Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment called for widespread support of the dairy industry.

I am calling on retailers and other buyers to get behind the dairy sector in this time of need and to pay a fair price for milk.

I fully recognise the difficulties being faced by dairy farmers because of the low price being paid for milk and volatility on the global market, and I have written to my UK counterparts calling for a joint ministerial meeting on this issue.

I am also happy to meet again with the dairy sector at any time and in any place during these very difficult times."

– Richard Lochead, Scotland's Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment

The four main unions, the National Farmers' Union, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union, met today in central London to discuss the "crisis".


NFU president urges supermarkets to buy British

Supermarkets must sell more British products that consumers want and stop scouring the world for the cheapest food they can find, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) demanded in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

NFU president Peter Kendall said there was "real shock" that consumers have been deceived over what was actually in the meat they had bought.

National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall pictured today. Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Speaking at the NFU's annual conference today, Mr Kendall called on retailers to back British farmers and growers.

"We now need supermarkets to stop scouring the world for the cheapest products they can find and start sourcing high quality, traceable product from farmers here at home", he said, adding, "It's not as if it's nuts and bolts, pots and pans or mobile phones - this is our food".

Tesco emails customers announcing 'commitments'

Tesco has emailed its customers to announce its "new commitments" amid the horsemeat scandal.

The email from CEO Philip Clarke states, "Today I make you a promise. Tesco is going to bring the food we sell closer to home. We're going to make how we source our food simpler, more transparent and shorter, and we will build better relationships with our nation's farmers".

The email from Tesco CEO Philip Clarke highlights a number of "new commitments". Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Mr Clarke announced all fresh chickens sold in Tesco will come from UK farms from July and that the retailer will move "over time" to ensure all its chicken products - fresh and frozen - will come from British suppliers.

"Everyone in the food industry has a big job ahead to win back your trust. But I am determined to lead the way, by changing the way Tesco sources food for the better", he states.

The email also links to a newly launched Tesco Food News website which he says will "keep you informed on our progress".

"Over time, it will allow you to see where the food you are eating comes from, how it was produced and who produced it", he adds.

Councils withdraw Welsh Bros Foods beef products

Cardiff, Pembrokeshire and Bridgend Councils have withdrawn beef products supplied by Welsh Bros Foods following reports a sample of its frozen minced beef tested positive for horsemeat.

Cardiff Council said it removed the products from its schools, leisure centres and care homes "as a precaution", which was echoed by both Pembrokeshire and Bridgend Councils.

Businesses 'need to win back confidence' amid scandal

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told the National Farmers' Union's annual conference that food business operators need to "get out there and win back the confidence of their customers" following the horsemeat scandal.

Mr Paterson said it was the "primary responsibility" of these businesses to ensure food is of the right quality and correctly labelled before it is sold.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson addressing the conference in Birmingham. Credit: Reuters TV

He told the audience, "It is totally unacceptable that anyone should buy something labelled beef and end up with horsemeat. That is fraud".

"I am determined that this criminal activity should be stopped and that anyone who has defrauded the customer must feel the full force of law", he added.


Tesco vows to source meat from Britain

Tesco today announced it would be sourcing more meat from UK producers, as supermarkets came under pressure to sell more British food in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

The supermarket giant's chief executive Philip Clarke told the National Farmers' Union annual conference:

Where it is reasonable to do so, we will source from British producers.

As a first step I announce that from July all of our fresh chicken must come from UK farmers. No exceptions.

And we will move over time to make sure all our chicken in all our products, fresh or frozen, is from the British Isles.

– Philip Clarke
  1. Wales

Welsh Bros Foods 'shocked' at reported horsemeat find

Welsh Bros Foods says it is 'deeply shocked' that a sample of its frozen minced beef has reportedly tested positive for horsemeat.

Welsh Bros Foods regrets to announce that late yesterday afternoon we were informed that a formal sample of our frozen free flow minced beef has been reported to have potentially tested positive for above 1% horse meat. We have not as yet had formal confirmation on this result; however, we have taken the decision to notify our customers of this issue immediately, and issue a withdraw notice for this product.

Welsh Bros Foods are deeply shocked by this development and are working with all relevant authorities.

– Welsh Bros Foods spokesperson

The firm said the affected batch was produced nearly three months ago and other samples have reportedly tested negative for horsemeat, adding: "We therefore believe at this stage that this is an isolated incident."

  1. Wales

Tests 'reveal horsemeat' in Pembrokeshire minced beef

Pembrokeshire County Council has withdrawn mince from its menus after being told a batch of frozen minced beef has potentially tested positive for horsemeat.

The mince was supplied by Welsh Bros Foods of Newport, Gwent, and was used by the council for schools, day centres and residential homes.

The council says it has also been made aware that frozen beef products supplied to Sodexo – a company providing catering services to the authority's privately-financed initiative school in Pembroke Dock – has tested positive for horsemeat.

Sodexo has withdrawn all frozen beef products from its UK catering operations.

NFU: Consumers want more British meat

More than three-quarters of consumers wants supermarkets to stock more food from British farms, according to a National Farmers' Union survey:

  • 78% said supermarkets should sell more food from British farms
  • 43% said they were more likely to buy traceable food from farms in Britain following the horsemeat scandal

A thousand people were polled by the union.

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