DAIRY giant Robert Wiseman’s have backed down on controversial plans to slash the price of milk following angry farmers protests.
The East Kilbride-based firm confirmed they will hold the wholesale price at 26.43p per litre for August.
The u-turn came after furious farmers formed blockades outside the East Kilbride depot in Nerston, and at plants in Bellshill, East Whitburn and West Lothian in protest over plans to cut prices by 1.7p per litre.
The collapse in the value of cream at the start of the year was blamed for the move after the East Kilbride firm – now owned by international food giant Muller – suffered a significant loss of income.
The protests began at around 6.30pm on Thursday and continued until midnight.
It is understood that work continued inside the dairies, but lorries were unable to enter or leave as tractors blocked the entrance to the factories.
Protest banners read: “Why is milk cheaper than water?”
Farmers For Action (FFA) welcomed the u-turn but stressed that farmers can no longer survive crippling cost cuts.
FFA spokesman John Cumming said: “We're quite glad that we've got a bit of stability in the market place. It is a move in the right direction.
“But the price of milk will still have to go up because the price we're being paid is well below the cost of production.
“In order for the dairy industry to survive the cost of milk is going to have to match the cost of production.”
Wiseman’s said they recognised the reduction announcement coincided with a period of adverse weather conditions, and rising feed costs for dairy farmers, which has caused difficulties for farmers.
A spokesman for Robert Wiseman said: “The decision takes account of concerns raised since we announced a 1.7ppl reduction in our ex-farm price from August 1, 2012.
“This followed the significant loss of income we suffered further to the substantial decline in cream values experienced since the beginning of the year which left us unable to sustain the milk price we were paying.
“We have been engaging with our customers with regards to the exceptional circumstances facing the supply chain and the need for urgent and significant support. From our discussions to date, we are confident this support will now be demonstrated.
“We welcome whole industry recognition of the difficulties facing farmers and the acknowledgement that fresh milk processors, even those that are as efficient and well invested as Wiseman, are under severe financial pressure.
“We have confidence that we can work with our customers and farmers to address the obvious challenges that exist.”