Coronavirus: Farmers forced to dump thousands of litres of milk

Farms have been forced to dump milk due to the effects of Covid-19 on the supply chain
Farms have been forced to dump milk due to the effects of Covid-19 on the supply chain

Dairy farms have been forced to dump thousands of litres of milk as the redirection of the product from the hospitality sector to the retail market takes its toll.

The UK liquid milk market is equally split between the proportion of milk which goes into the retail sector and the proportion which goes into food service.

The first two weeks of March saw retail demand for milk increase by 15-20% whilst the food service sector saw a 70% drop as consumers stayed away from cafes and restaurants due to the coronavirus.

But this increased demand in retail is not sufficient to offset the decreased demand from the food service sector, NFU Cymru recently warned.

And because of workplace restrictions in dairy processors due to the Covid-19 crisis, many are experiencing staff shortages and production issues causing delays in farm collections.

A spokesman for the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) said it is a 'huge concern' seeing farmers dumping milk.

"Rest assured the industry is working hard to try and come up with a workable solution to prevent this."

Wiltshire dairy farmer Robert Mallett was told to dump milk on Sunday 5 April. He said: "No collection due 'to staff shortages, slower production'. What a waste of all the effort that goes into producing quality food."

In a new update on Monday, Mr Mallett said that he had to dump a further 17,000 litres down the drain.

"The girls aren't bothered, we will do everything to keep them happy and healthy," he said.

Elsewhere, Winterdale Cheese, a small Kent dairy farm, said that because their milk was not collected on Sunday it has now ended up down the drain.

"Rough times for artisan cheesemakers trying to sell our cheese, but now the devastation continues - our milk was not collected today and sadly ends up down the drain," the farm said.

Responding to the farm's situation, local MP Tom Tugendhat said the treatment of farmers during the crisis has been 'appalling'.

He is now petitioning Defra to urgently support dairy farmers during the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as the UK’s largest independent processing dairy, Freshways, announced a significant drop in its milk price.

The dairy processor, which supplies hotels, airlines and the food industry, recently slashed their milk price by 2p per litre.

Farmers who supply Medina Dairy will also see a two pence per litre reduction in the processor's standard litre price starting from 1 May.