THE plight of farmers hit by the collapse of Dairy Farmers of Britain (DFB) is to be raised in Parliament.
The Government is being urged to intervene by Cumbrian MP and Liberal Democrat Shadow Defra spokesman Tim Farron, who has submitted an Early Day Motion to the House of Commons.
It calls on the Government to under- write the £20m in unpaid milk cheques owed to dairy farmers and to take action against milk buyers aiming to exploit those hit by the crisis by offering below market prices.
Around 1,800 dairy farmers have lost £50m since the farmer-owned co-operative went into receivership last week. DFB’s Blaydon site supports around 500 North East jobs.
Mr Farron said: “The collapse of Dairy Farmers of Britain is a tragedy for our dairy sector and could leave 1,800 dairy farmers with no buyers for their product that would cause a catastrophe in milk prices.
“I’m appalled at the behaviour of HSBC, whose deliberate decision to call in their loans to maximise the benefits for their creditors has left the members of Dairy Farmers of Britain without May’s milk cheques.
“The Government has the power to step in and underwrite the payments that Dairy Farmers of Britain were due to pay dairy farmers this May – they must do so right away.”
He said what had happened at DFB showed the need for a transparent and stable pricing mechanism for milk to prevent similar problems in the future.
“It’s about time that the Government understood this and pressed on with plans to bring fair trade for British farmers and a fair deal for the consumer by introducing an Independent Supermarket Regulator,” Mr Farron added. Meanwhile, another bank has come out offering support to customers who have been affected by DFB’s collapse.
Lloyds TSB said its managers have been contacting dairy farm clients who have not been paid for the milk they supplied to the co-operative. The bank’s announcement follows a similar statement issued by Barclays.
Paul Spencer, agricultural director for the Lloyds banking group, said: “In addition to the immediate cash flow challenges and concerns over their future milk marketing, these farmers will have made varying financial contributions to the co-operative and uncertainty over these investments will be adding to the financial pressures.
“We are keen to support all reasonable requests for assistance from viable businesses.”
He urged customers to assess what problems the crisis would cause for their business and have an open dialogue with their bank.