Published Friday, 10 August 2012
Farmers For Action protest outside Asda in Cookstown. (© UTV)
On Thursday around 50 farmers protested at an Asda store in Cookstown and handed out flyers asking customers to boycott the supermarket until they offer better farmers a better deal.
The group Farmers For Action claim that since spring, they have not received the same price for milk as farmers in the rest of the UK.
Last week they began their campaign against the pricing set by retailers in Strabane, Co Tyrone where almost 200 farmers participated.
"It's time for the corporate retailers wholesalers and processors to wake up and smell the coffee as their current level of profit taking across the world's family farmers on virtually all commodities except gain is unsustainable, most of all they should note the sheer anger in rural UK and Ireland as to how they are being treated," William Taylor, FFA NI co-ordinator said.
"All they ask is a fair return but it is evident that it will take pressure to obtain fairness."
These protests come after the Ulster Farmer's Union held their own 'farm gate sale' to highlight the small profit margins they make in supplying to big food retailers.
The Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill has said she supports the concept of fair pricing for farmers and other suppliers and she has raised the issue with the DEFRA Secretary of State.
"Whilst the regulation of issues affecting competition is a reserved matter, the Minister supports the introduction of a Groceries Code Adjudicator by the Coalition Government in Westminster," a spokesperson said.
The minister has already welcomed a bill for a Groceries Code adjudicator and has called for the early introduction of an adjudicator with "real powers to step in whenever farmers are being paid a poor price". The minister hopes to see the role in place by early next year.
Mr Taylor says that the issue may be "too big for an adjudicator".
"What we would like to see is a change in legislation, but initially we are focusing on the corporate retailers and milk pricing," he said.
A spokesperson for Asda said they respected the rights of the farmers to air their concerns but wouldn't comment further as they said their protest was over a "wider industry issue".
Farmers For Action will be protesting in Omagh next Thursday.