SUPERMARKET Morrisons is to launch a new milk brand selling at a premium which it says will go directly to the crisis-hit dairy industry.
The Bradford-based chain has been one of the main targets for protesters from the farming industry who have stripped milk from the shelves before dumping the produce or giving it away for free.
Industry leaders met Morrisons bosses to try to tackle falling milk prices which, the National Farmers Union (NFU) of England and Wales says, will lead to dairy farmers being forced to leave the industry in the next few weeks as they struggle to pay bills and face rising debts.
NFU president Meurig Raymond and Rob Harrison, chairman of the NFU dairy board, joined campaign group Farmers For Action at a meeting with the supermarket in Birmingham.
Afterwards Morrisons corporate services director Martyn Jones said: “We will be launching a milk brand that allows customers to pay a little more if they want to support British farmers.
“Called Morrisons Milk for Farmers, this product will sell at a 10p per litre premium to the standard Morrisons milk price.”
Consumers want to see more British food on the shelvesMeurig Raymond
He added: “All of that premium will go directly back to the farmers that supply our processor Arla. It will go into stores in the autumn and is aimed at shoppers who want to directly support dairy farmers
“Consumers can choose whether they want to pay more to support British dairy. A recent survey found that more than half of customers said they would be willing to do so.”
Asked if farmers’ protests against retailers and supermarkets would continue, David Handley of Farmers For Action said direct action would be maintained – although not against Morrisons. The four main farming unions, the NFU, the NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union, held an emergency summit in London on Monday to develop an action plan to tackle falling milk, lamb and arable prices.
There have been days of protests by farmers including milk trolley challenges, blockades at distribution centres and even bringing cattle into supermarkets.
Farmers estimate 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 per cent in a year.
Mr Raymond has said the “huge crisis” had already driven 256 herds out of the industry in 2015 alone, adding: “We’ll end up importing more milk and milk product, and that cannot be good for UK Ltd. Our consumers want to see more British food on their supermarket shelves.”
Morrisons also announced it did not take the reward of any further farm-gate price decreases from its suppliers Arla and Dairycrest, and has told the processors to pass on any benefit to the farmers.
The supermarket giant will be launching its premium milk brand in October.
Asked whether the supermarket giant would extend the idea to cheese, butter, yoghurt or other dairy products on its shelves, Mr Jones replied: “Ultimately, the selling will tell the story.”
He added: “I think we can only do so much, we’re doing our little bit to help at a time when clearly we have both consumers operating on tight budgets but we also have hard-working dairy farmers and their families feeling the squeeze.”
Mr Jones said that other ideas would be discussed with farmers on wider dairy product pricing issue.