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Explainer: Why are dairy farmers protesting?

Dairy farmers say low milk prices are driving them out of business Credit: PA

Over the past week we've seen Milk Trolley Challenges, blockades at distribution centres and cows in supermarkets. Today farming leaders met for an emergency summit in London to address the "crisis" of the falling price of milk.

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What are they arguing about?

Dairy farmers have been taking action after major milk processors such as Arla and Dairy Crest dropped the price of milk, leaving the farmers out of pocket.

The move would see the standard litre price for the farmer drop from over 30p to 23.01p.

Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) of England and Wales, said many farmers faced "big decisions" about whether to leave the industry in the next few weeks as they struggle to pay bills and face rising debts.

"We've seen a 30% fall in milk prices in the last 12 months. It's a crisis I haven't seen in my farming career."

Protesters hand out free milk after clearing the shelves at an Asda store. Credit: ITV News

Is this against all supermarkets?

No. Last week farmers urged consumers not to buy from Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl or Londis who pay the farmers the lowest prices.

Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer all pay the 30p a litre or more which is the minimum dairy farmers say they need to survive.

So far, Asda and the Co-operative agreed to raise their price to farmers but it still falls slightly short of the 30p threshold.

30-32p
Estimated cost of producing a litre of milk (equivalent to 1.76 pints)
79.78p
Average cost of a litre of milk in supermarkets
10p
The amount farmers say they lose per litre of milk produced
Average price for farmers has dropped by 10p a litre Credit: PA

What has changed in the dairy industry?

  • Figures show that the amount farmers are paid to produce milk has fallen by a quarter in the last year- dropping from 31.66p per litre in June 2014 to 23.66p in June 2015.
  • The retail price for a litre of milk is now over 50p higher than the farmgate price: the widest gap for at least 20 years.
  • The number of dairy farms in England and Wales is down by a third since 2005.