England and Wales: Costs prompt milk producers to quit

06-07 | |
Over the next two years dairy farmers were most concerned about feed prices (93%), fuel (91%), energy (89%) and fertiliser (88%). Photo: Bert Jansen
Over the next two years dairy farmers were most concerned about feed prices (93%), fuel (91%), energy (89%) and fertiliser (88%). Photo: Bert Jansen

Fears about rising feed, fuel and fertiliser costs have prompted nearly a quarter of dairy farmers in England and Wales to consider ceasing milk production within the next 2 years.

The National Farmers’ Union survey of 610 dairy farmers found that 15% said they were considering ending milk production, while a further 7% said they planned to quit milk production. If 7% leave the industry nationally, it could mean 840 producers leaving the industry.

Concerns over feed prices, primarily

Over the next 2 years, dairy farmers were most concerned about feed prices (93%), fuel (91%), energy (89%) and fertiliser (88%).

Smaller dairy farmers, producing less than 1 million litres, make up the majority of those intending to stop milk production and also make up the largest group of those more likely to be unsure of continuing.

Costs in dairy farming

Minette Batters, NFU president, said Britain’s climate is perfect for growing and farming a diverse range of food, but it was more important than ever not to take it for granted.

“Costs are rising rapidly on farms across the country and across all sectors. It’s already having an impact on the food that we are producing as a nation as well as leading to a crisis of confidence among Britain’s farmers. These survey results clearly set out what we have to lose if nothing is done.

“Farmers are up for the challenge and play their part in the solution, but investment and commitment from the government are crucial along the journey, particularly when they are battling costs like never before.

“Farming has always been a volatile business but with fertiliser prices doubling, feed and fuel prices rising and the variable role of the weather, the decisions farmers are making now will feel more like a gamble than ever before. We now need the government to put words into action and ensure the nation can continue to enjoy high-quality British food,” added Batters.

Real concerns

NFU dairy board chairman, Michael Oakes, added that processors were feeling the pressure too and have voiced “real concerns” despite offering higher prices that they would not be able to fulfil commitments over the coming months.

Processors such as Arla have been offering producers 50ppl from July with others following suit in August and September, but it is still not enough to drive up supply.

Oakes said production was also falling across Europe and moving further east, so there was a real opportunity for the UK to be there and fulfil some of those markets, adding the NFU was in talks with both Defra and the Department for International Trade to explore further opportunities.

McDougal
Tony McDougal Freelance journalist
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