September 17, 2009

UK unable to be self-sufficient in milk production

Supplies of fresh milk in the UK are so low that dairies and supermarkets are resorting to buying one million litres of imports per day, according to the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.


Dairy farmers said that five years ago Britain was self-sufficient in liquid milk supplies whereas today had to import from France, the Netherlands and the Irish Republic.


Five years ago the UK produced more than 14 billion litres a year while now it is down to 12.5 billion litres.


Lyndon Edwards, chairman of the association, said farmer numbers had halved in a decade to 17,060 and the country could no longer produce the 18 million litres of milk a day consumed by the nation.


Instead there was a 1.46 billion litre shortfall of milk produced in Britain which had prompted the unprecedented level of imports.


Edwards hit out at the "gross unfairness" of the milk marketplace where farmers were paid three-percent below the 25.5 percent a litre cost of production, yet processor margins had soared by 28 percent to 21.9 percent per litre and supermarkets were up two percent to 19.1 percent per litre.

Last year farmers had earned 27 percent a litre but that was down to 22.5 percent, reflecting the collapse in world commodity prices and the volatility in the market.


The situation was likely to worsen in the future as farmers were still quitting the sector at a rate of 14 a day, unless there was commitment to buy fresh milk produced in UK, Edwards said.