Over 1 million litres of milk were discarded in the UK during a two-week window last month due to coronavirus-related disruption, according to a new survey.
The interim data from the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) survey, concerns the period 6-20 April and includes sheep and goat milk.
The survey, which will be used to highlight to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) the scale of the problem facing the industry, also collected data on farmers receiving reduced prices for their milk.
According to the RABDF, the worst affected counties, in terms of milk receiving a reduced value or being discarded, are: Dorset (2.38 million litres), Staffordshire (2.17 million litres), Kent (1.42 million litres), and County Antrim (1.2 million litres).
The organisation says that although the volume of milk being affected seems to have dropped since 20 April, there are still some farmers receiving lower prices and occasionally, milk being discarded.
Last month, the RABDF called on the UK Government to provide financial support to dairy farmers affected by Covid-19, claiming that if aid was not forthcoming, the dairy and wider agricultural supply chain would suffer major disruption.
The dairy industry normally supplies approximately 8 million litres of milk to the UK’s foodservice sector per week, according to estimates from DEFRA and Kantar Worldpanel, and the industry has been hard hit by closures.
The shutdown of major segments of the milk marketplace in the US – including restaurants, coffee shops and schools – has also led industry groups there to warn of a “staggering” crisis as farmers are left “dumping milk into fields and down drains”.
In the UK, the Government has relaxed some elements of competition law to support the industry, but there has been no hardship payment implemented as yet.
Commenting on the findings, RABDF chairman Peter Alvis said: “We continue to monitor the situation regarding the loss in value and all milk being discarded. What our survey shows is the negative impact it is having on those farmers most severely affected.
“It is imperative farmers continue submitting their information about the volume and value of milk lost so we can keep DEFRA informed of the size of the challenge this sector faces.
“We request DEFRA considers the seriousness of the situation and supports these farmers with a hardship payment. Any data we can continue feeding into DEFRA will only go to help this industry’s cause.”
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