Over the past seven days, supermarkets up and down the UK have been host to a series of surreal protests conducted by dairy farmers. They have "trolley dashed" Morrisons – clearing shelves of milk before giving it to charities – and even brought their cows into Asda. They are protesting against grocers Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl and Asda and processors Arla, First Milk and Dairy Crest after seeing the price paid to farmers for milk plummet.

According to AHDB Dairy, the price farmers were paid for milk in June was on average 23.66p per litre, which is 25% lower than last year. Farmers have said they require at least 30p to produce each litre.

New Zealand Government expedites Fonterra inquiry with new bill
Supermarkets and suppliers have blamed a dip in global demand for milk and an oversupply in the UK as a cause of the current crisis

Meurig Raymond, president of the National Union of Farmers, said: "The situation many of our members are experiencing has become a crisis. In dairy, many milk producers have seen price cut after price cut.

"It's simply not sustainable for any farmer to continue to produce milk if they're selling it at a loss. The plight of many farmers has become desperately serious and with no sign that things will improve, we really need urgent action from retailers, the food service sector and processors to show commitment to British dairy farmers."

That urgent action has culminated in widespread protests, which has also seen a Morrisons distribution centre blockaded with tractors, and a meeting of the four biggest farmers unions holding an emergency meeting today.

Falling demand

Supermarkets and suppliers have blamed a dip in global demand for milk and an oversupply in the UK as a cause of the current crisis.

A bitter supermarket price war, that has seen prices of thousands of items slashed, has also contributed the falling price of milk.

An illustration of how prices have dropped can be seen on supermarket shelves. In Asda, for example, a four-pint carton of milk currently costs 89p. This compares to £1 in 2012.

Gilad Simhony, CEO of mySupermarket.co.uk, said: ''Milk prices have only been getting cheaper in 2015 and a pint of milk can now be sold for less that a bottle of water. With supermarkets finding it harder to compete for shopper's baskets they are looking at ways of lowering the costs of essentials for customers who are increasingly comparing prices across the supermarkets.

Morrisons
Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl and Asda have been singled out by campaignersReuters

"Global factors such as Russia banning dairy products from Europe has also played a part resulting in a hugely detrimental environment for manufacturers and farmers.''

Britain's biggest milk processor Dairy Crest has cut the price it pays farmers by 1.4p to just under 21.7p per litre. Arla, which is owned by a farmers cooperative, cut the price it pays for milk 0.8p to 23.01p.

According to campaigners, Tesco, Sainsbury's, M&S and Waitrose have escaped direct action because they have signed contracts paying fairer prices to farmers.

While the supermarkets that are under fire do not have a direct relationship with farmers, according to campaigners, they have the power to pressurise suppliers.

Ian Macalpine, chairman of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, told IBTimes UK: "Retailers are best placed to put pressure on processors to give farmers a fair price for milk. Supermarkets have significant margin power to do this and we need to take that margin out of their pockets and put it into farmers' pockets. If we don't, we're going to see a full blown crisis this winter."

Milk prices
Data showing the cost of a pint of milk in each British supermarketmySupermarket