Almost half of Britain’s dairy farmers are scheduled to leave the sector, according to an intentions survey carried out by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF).

The survey found almost half of British dairy farmers are scheduled to leave the sector. Photo credit: Free Images – Piotr Fuz.

Additionally, 45% of the remaining half planning to continue in production have put their expansion plans on hold.

“Forty-nine per cent of producers see no future for themselves if current farmgate prices persist for the next six months, leaving Britain with approximately 5,000 dairy farms, of which half have no confidence in immediate investment,” RABDF vice-chairman Mike King said.

“Those intentions could result in the industry having insufficient critical mass and consumers short of British liquid milk and dairy produce.”

The RABDF survey concluded, in general, it was the producers with all-year calving herds and a level profile contract who planned to leave, while those with aligned contracts and or low-cost production systems believed their business had a future.

Reasons for planning to quit ranged from base price well below cost of production, long hours for very little financial return, the banks were unwilling to give further assistance, to no successor so why continue.

Lack of surplus cash was the simple answer from the majority of those who indicated they intended to put their expansion plans on hold.

“The loss of dairy farmers continues unabated, with 434 quitting in the past 12 months, during which period over £1 billion has been wiped off farmgate incomes due to falling milk prices,” said Mr King.

“These price trends are multifactorial; we have to accept commodity volatility in the global marketplace and other influences outside our control and factor them into our long-term business plans.

“However, supermarket discounting has also been among the key price influences. While we welcome the support for liquid milk that some supermarkets have demonstrated in the past few weeks, we continue to urge all retailers to pay all farmers a fair price for milk for processing – one which covers cost of production and leaves sufficient for investment purposes,” he added.

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