FARMERS brought a Middlewich supermarket distribution centre to a standstill over what they see as a raw deal on milk profits.
Members of the Farmers For Action pressure group set up a blockade of 83 tractors, stopping any vehicles entering or leaving the Tesco depot on Pochin Way until their position was recognised.
Tom Houghton, the dairy farmer who organised the protest, said the issue of milk had turned sour because supermarket giants have not fulfilled promises to give farmers a better deal.
'In December we were promised that there'd be a rise of 3p per litre of milk, of which 1.5p would go straight to the farmer and 1.5p would be split between retailers and their suppliers,' he said. 'But even though the full 3p has been added to the price you pay in the shops, we've received a rise of only 0.03p per litre.'
Phil Smallwood, a dairy farmer from Stanthorne near Middlewich, says even though he did not take part in Thursday night's action, his fellow farmers were right to bring the issue into the open.
He said: 'We're being ripped off. I get 9p per pint - what does the public pay in the shops? It's easy to see protests as the wrong way to go about things, but look at it another way - we don't count our profits in billions per year.'
Tesco takes a different view. 'We don't believe blockading depots is a constructive way to deal with issues,' a spokesman said. 'In fact, it harms the consumer and so harms the farmers.
'We are trying hard to improve the lot of the British farmer - we source more British milk than previously and we were instrumental in increasing the price in store so our suppliers and farmers get a fairer deal. If producers had not seen any increase in profits, I'm sure we would speak to our suppliers about it. But we can't seek to control prices.'
He refused to be drawn on how this particular impasse could be avoided.
The protest ended only when a manager at the depot agreed that Tesco would contact Farmers For Action's chairman David Hanley, who said on Friday: 'Tesco asked to contact me again next week to tell me what it'll do to sort out the crisis faced by dairy farmers across the UK. If they don't, they'll get a lot more of what they got last night - and not just in Middlewich, either.'