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Dairy farmers hit by lockdown reduction in milk demand

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

Dairy farmers need Government support to survive the Covid-19 lockdown as demand from cafes and restaurants has dried up, it has been urged.

Some dairy farmers are reporting having to pour milk from their cows away because it is not being picked up by processors in the face of a drop in demand from the food services sector and, in some cases, staff shortages.

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) is calling on the Government to help fund a short-term financial support scheme for dairy farmers whose businesses have been severely affected by the pandemic.

The short-term scheme would ensure dairy farmers stay in business through the current crisis, and are able to start resupplying restaurants, hotels and cafes when the lockdown eases and food outlets reopen.

A failure to back dairy farmers could disrupt the market and lead to a lack of supply later in the year, the association warned.

It wants the Government to reimburse farmers who are receiving a significantly reduced value for their milk or are having to dispose of it because their processor is heavily reliant on the food service sector.

Around 300 dairy farmers, who produce around one million litres of milk a day, could benefit from such a scheme.

Under the plans put forward by the association, dairy farmers would be reimbursed directly by the Government up to their standard milk price.

They would only be eligible if they supply a processor who can show their market has been affected solely from the impact of Covid-19, and it is hoped the scheme could be up and running by the end of April.

Peter Alvis, chairman of RABDF said: “This scheme will ensure both short-term and longer-term food security and ease the stress on the industry.

“Removing the excess distressed milk from the market place will help to stabilise the current spot price without causing long-term market distortion.

“It will also allow those affected dairy farmers to continue to pay for invoices for farm inputs to the wider local/rural supply industry beyond the farm gate and will prevent extra cows being culled which will exacerbate the problems in the beef supply chain,” he added.