Western Morning News

UK dairy industry is ‘on its knees’


BRITAIN’S dairy farmers need a minimum milk price set by the Government as demand goes down the drain, the shadow environmen­t and food minister says.

Luke Pollard, Shadow Secretary of State for Environmen­t, Food and Rural Affairs, said the dairy industry is on its knees and the Government must make it the next sector in line for support during the coronaviru­s crisis.

The MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said the loss of demand from restaurant­s, hotels and coffee shops, all locked down and shut during the pandemic, is not offset by an increase in milk sales at supermarke­ts.

It means orders are drying up and the UK’s £121 billion agrifood industry is in trouble with farmers selling below cost or throwing milk away.

Mr Pollard stressed the nation’s 8,400 dairy farms must continue to milk cows as it is a welfare issue for the animals.

That is driving down prices, understood to be as little as 7p a litre now, despite the production cost being up to four times that.

Mr Pollard said the Government must step in and secure a minimum price for farmers, or even buy up excess milk so it can be turned into products with a longer shelf life, such as powdered or UHT milk.

“There is an issue with the collapse of milk prices,” he said. “We are reaching the point where more milk is being produced at any other time and it’s collapsing prices and causing an issue for the dairy industry.

“They simply can’t sell their product for the same price or even get their milk collected.

“Yes, we are buying more milk in supermarke­ts but it is nowhere near enough to make up for the loss of restaurant­s and cafes.

“So farmers are literally throwing milk away. They have to milk the cows because it is a welfare issue.”

He said even export markets are closed, and demand for cheese and butter is lower too.

“I have asked the Government for what support could be given to the dairy sector around pricing. The rules allow ministers to intervene in the dairy industry if prices collapse. There is an ability to set a floor price.”

Mr Pollard said the Government could also purchase more milk and needs support areas of the dairy industry where capacity can be increased rapidly.

“We have to look at how we build capacity in those parts of the dairy sector that make milk powder, long-life milk, or butter and cheese, so the milk is not thrown away.

“Dairy farms will be struggling to make enough money to continue. There is a real risk farmers could go out of business.”

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