More than 1,000 dairy farms close after milk price plunge

Jul 12, 2016

National Farmers Union says outlook has improved but many are being forced out of business

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More than 1,000 dairy farms have closed in the past three years, according to a new report that has laid bare the scale of the crisis facing UK farmers following years of falling milk prices.

The study, published by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), says a total of 1,002 dairy farms have closed since 2013, says the BBC.

Low prices are partly to blame, with wholesale milk prices often as much as 10p below the cost of production. The slump remains an ongoing problem despite widespread protests last year led by the National Farmers Union.

The worst hit area of the UK is North Yorkshire, where 89 farms have closed, and the largest proportionate decline is in Berkshire, where a third of farms have shut.

While there are now just 9,538 dairy farms in England and Wales, the report says the number of cows has increased by around 113,000 and yields per animal are up by around eight per cent.

 The problem is not entirely of Britain’s making. Global oversupply has dragged down prices following the removal of milk quotas in Europe.

Last year, a range of protests saw several supermarkets pledge to increase the price they pay. Asda announced the latest move to support dairy farmers earlier this month, saying it has introduced a four-litre carton of milk that pays an additional 25p back to farmers.

NFU Cymru Dairy Board chairman Aled Jones told Farmers Weekly that while prices are improving, they are still “unsustainable”.

“Supply is pulling back across the world and there are reports that dairy consumption will be bigger than the growth in production this year,” he said.

“However, many farmers are receiving an extremely low price for their milk, so despite any small increases, prices will still be extremely low and how quickly we get back to a sustainable level no one knows.”