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Pay us or lose us; Dairy farms in crisis as profits plummet.

Byline: ANDREW FORGRAVE

MILK production on Anglesey could be slashed to just a handful of farms within the next few years, unions have warned.

The crisis within the island's dairy industry is reflected across Wales and producers are so concerned many may soon launch direct action,Peredur Hughes,NFU Cymru president, warned.

In a decade the number of dairy units on Anglesey has dwindled from an estimated 160 to just 40 and yet price pressures were now at an all time high,he said. Across Wales as a whole,almost 500 Welsh dairy holdings had gone out of business in the last five years.

Mr Hughes said: ``The way things are going there will be just half a dozen large dairy farms left on Anglesey within the next five years.

``Farmers are very, very angry and I can see a time when they will be taking action,because they simply can't survive as things stand.''

Dairy farmers are currently paid between 16-18p/litre for milk but the unions claim price rises to 20-23p/litre are needed to halt the exodus of milk producers.

Despite a July pledge by supermarkets to increase retail costs by 2p/ litre, little of this has been passed back to farmers, who blame the middle men -processors and even dairy co-operatives -for boosting their own profits.

To illustrate their point at yesterday's show,NFU Cymru used three milk bottles to demonstrate how little dairy farmers get for the milk they produce,and how much they need to get to remain in business.

Anglesey producer Geraint Roberts, 24, who runs 220 milkers with his father at 700-acre Tal y Llyn,Toe Croes, said the business is paid just 15.8p/litre -though production bonuses boost this to 17p/litre.

He said: ``Just a single penny rise would make a difference of pounds 15,000a-year to the business. In reality we need at least 20p/litre so we can invest for the future and ensure the long-term viability of the business.''

This was re-iterated by Trevor Lloyd, NFU Cymru county vicechariman on Anglesey, who told the milk chain: pay us or lose us.

The Farmers' Union of Wales also used the Anglesey Show as the launch pad for a stinging attack on dairy returns.

It seized on a report by a Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers working party, which estimated the industry has been under-estimating production costs by 20pc.

CAPTION(S):

Geraint Roberts surveys three bottles of milk -the left one represents the retail cost of milk while the middle one is the proportion of this which is paid to farmers. The right one represents the proportion dairy farmers need to receive to survive
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 13, 2003
Words:447
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