Meeting in Cumbria planned after First Milk announces more price cuts for some members

70 jobs will be lost, and end product pricing introduced, as cooperative seeks to secure its future

Adam Fradgley / Exposure Photography Rob Harrison, NFU dairy board chairman
Rob Harrison, NFU dairy board chairman

The NFU is encouraging North East farmers hit by milk price cuts from First Milk to attend a meeting with the cooperative due to take place in Cumbria this month.

The organisation is seeking further clarification after First Milk announced it is to bring in end product pricing from June, meaning prices paid to their members across the UK will differ according to location and end use.

The only suppliers to benefit financially will be those supplying Haverfordwest creamery in Pembrokeshire, who will see a 0.3p per litre price increase, with all others seeing a price decrease from June.

The hardest hit will be the liquid milk or balancing suppliers who will see a 1.2ppl drop taking their June A volume milk price to 19.3ppl.

As part of the ‘turnaround’ plan, First Milk will be cutting 70 jobs, mainly at its headquarters and in support functions.

There will also be a new focus on securing UK contracts and customers, with less emphasis on exports.

NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison said: “While I understand that new chief executive Mike Gallacher and the First Milk board have had to take drastic and decisive action to secure the longer-term sustainability of the business, this news on milk prices brings little or no comfort to some members across England and Wales who have supported them over the years.

“The headline A price of 19.3ppl for the balancing supply doesn’t take into account the 2ppl capital investment requirement that came into force in January, nor the fact that this is only paid for 80% of the milk supplied.

“The actual milk price received by these farmers will be far worse and I would implore First Milk to do all they can to increase both the A and B price for these farmers.”

He added that while the NFU wanted to see a secure future for the cooperative, this should not come at the expense of members.

“I, and my board, have spoken to a number of them who feel they have no other option but to leave the industry,” he said.

“First Milk’s management team need to confirm at the forthcoming member meetings the whole range of actions that they are doing to put the business on a more secure footing. This must not just be about cutting the milk price.”

Member meetings will be held in Staffordshire on May 7, Pembrokeshire on May 8 and Cumbria on May 11.

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