Coronavirus: Dairy farmers urged to submit daily accounts of losses

By completing the survey, farming organisations will be able to produce a daily report for the government in hope of new support for farmers
By completing the survey, farming organisations will be able to produce a daily report for the government in hope of new support for farmers

Farmers have been called to submit an online daily account of their losses after the government asked for more information on the severity of the crisis facing the dairy sector.

Defra recently requested ‘accurate and credible supportive data’ to back up the dairy industry’s claims for more support during a crisis meeting.

Farmers produce over 40m litres of milk every day, but decreased demand from the hospitality sector and reduced collections has caused 'unprecedented disruption' to dairying, the meeting heard.

Now a new survey aims to build a clearer picture of how many farmers are affected by the impacts of the coronavirus and the best options for dealing with oversupply.

By completing it, industry bodies will be able to produce a daily report for the government, highlighting the severity of the situation and the speed at which it is changing.

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF), creators of the survey, is urging producers affected by the Covid-19 milk crisis to submit their losses.

Chairman Peter Alvis said: “It is important, as an industry, we have a firm understanding of the situation, how many producers are affected and the level at which they are affected.

He said a recent government announcement that competition rules are being relaxed is a step in helping the industry work together and identifying how surplus milk in the supply chain can be rerouted.

The survey will help that effort build a clearer picture of how many dairy farming businesses are affected, he said.

“If there is still an issue the industry is unable to solve then as a sector, we must be able to demonstrate clearly to government how big the problem is and where the issues lie.”

Dairy UK and the AHDB are also working on identifying spare processing capacity, looking at how to stimulate demand and how production can be temporarily reduced.

Dairy is the UK’s largest farming sector, with milk accounting for 16.85% of total agricultural output in the UK in 2018.

Of this, approximately 50% of UK dairy sector output is fresh milk and as such accounts for a significant amount of UK processing capacity.

The Covid-19 outbreak has seen the almost complete loss of the food service and hospitality markets, as well as increasing price volatility in global markets which has left farms and processors under pressure.

This has led to some farmers with no other option but to dispose of milk on farm.

UK farming unions, RABDF, Dairy UK and the Provision Trade Federation have written to Defra Secretary George Eustice to reiterate the need for more support.

They said the situation is continuing to escalate rapidly with serious financial consequences for many individual businesses.

"There are farmers unable to pay their feed companies and having to sell cows," the groups said in the letter.

"There are dairy companies that, having lost all of their key markets, still have to deal with the milk and find a home for it in an oversupplied marketplace.

“These may have been isolated impacts to start with, but we know that already around a quarter of the dairy industry has been affected within just a matter of weeks.

“It is important to reiterate that only a matter of weeks ago, all of this milk had a good home, and hopefully in a few months’ time, those markets will return.

"The British dairy sector wants to be there to meet that demand, so it is crucial that the industry is not irreversibly damaged by this crisis."