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Speak out against supermarkets, dairy farmers urged

[Thursday 01 March 2007]
dales cows
Dales dairy farmers urged to speak out against
supermarkets

A NEW drive to save the British dairy farming industry was launched this week - with farmers being urged to speak out against supermarket chains which are forcing them into bankruptcy by constantly cutting prices paid for milk.

With three dairy farmers quitting the industry every day saying it is impossible to make the business pay; delegates at the National Farmers' Union were urged to speak out against supermarket "blackmail."

There have been several attempts in the past to set up a voluntary code of conduct between mass retailers and dairy producers to set fair prices - but they have all collapsed. The reason, say the farmers, is because the supermarkets have reneged as they fight to undercut each other - and milk is one of the key "loss-leaders" in the super store wars.

However, Government bodies have been unable to take action so far because farmers have been frightened to give evidence - because, it is alleged, the few that have spoken out in the past have been "black-listed" and have lost their entire sales.

At the conference in Birmingham, NFU President Peter Kendall urged members withy evidence of anti-competitive moves to come forward and give evidence - a pointed request made in the presence of the new rural affairs secretary, David Miliband.

Price fixing is against the law under competition laws and, much to the surprise of many of the delegates, the call for witnesses to step forward was backed up by another high-profile speaker, Justin King, Chief Executive of Sainsbury's.

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