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UK farmers asked for daily record of losses to highlight milk sector crisis

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

Dairy farmers are being urged to submit an online daily account of their losses after the Government called for data on how the sector is being hit.

Demand for milk and dairy products from restaurants, cafes, hotels and other food retail outlets has collapsed, forcing some farmers to pour away milk and putting businesses at risk of folding, the industry has warned.

At a meeting last week, the Environment Department (Defra) asked for “accurate and credible supportive data” to back up the industry’s claims for support, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) said.

Now the RABDF is urging producers affected by the Covid-19 milk crisis to submit an online daily account of their losses via a survey on its website, to help highlight how severe the situation is and how quickly it is changing.

RABDF chairman Peter Alvis said: “The situation in the dairy industry is constantly evolving, with different processors and farmers affected each day.

“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 an announcement by the Government that competition rules were being relaxed would help the industry work together and identify how surplus milk in the supply chain could be rerouted.

Mr Alvis added: “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 Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) are also trying to identify spare processing capacity, looking at how to stimulate demand and how production can be temporarily reduced.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales cautiously welcomed the temporary easing of competition laws, which is hoped will enable greater collaboration so the dairy sector, including dairy farmers and processors, can work more closely to solve the issues it is facing.

But the organisation also wants to see a targeted grant scheme for affected farmers similar to the retail and hospitality grant scheme, a fully-funded, Government-run voluntary national production reduction scheme, and engagement with the EU Commission to introduce market support measures.

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