Dairy industry being milked dry, say experts

UK - Farmers have been warned that their industry could collapse in a few years and that we may be forced to import liquid milk from Europe. Harry Wallop reports
calendar icon 9 November 2006
clock icon 2 minute read

addesdon, a picturesque farm near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, with 377 cows, shut up its dairy for the last time in September, after its owner decided he could no longer stomach the losses. This would not usually merit much comment, but Waddesdon is owned by one of Europe's richest men: Lord (Jacob) Rothschild.

As one dairy farmer put it, "If he can't make any money from dairy, then God help us all."

Waddesdon has become another statistic in a depressing trend that some experts believe could see the UK milk industry come close to collapse within a matter of years, forcing us to import liquid milk from Europe.

Sir Stuart Hampson has just finished his year-long stint as chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, a post usually filled by a minor royal (he has been followed by the Countess of Wessex).

He, however, decided to spend his tenure conducting an in-depth survey into the state of farming and his conclusions are stark. "I really sense farmers aren't crying wolf. There is a lot of scaremongering about tipping points, but we are reaching a point where unless action is taken we won't have a viable sector. If we reached a point when we started importing liquid milk it would be scandalous. "

He predicts the crunch could come in as little as five years. This is not the jaundiced view of the hard-pressed farming community. Sir Stuart's day job is chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, which owns Waitrose.

The official farm figures for 2005 have just been released by the Department of for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and confirm Sir Stuart's pessimism. The number of farms have nearly halved since 1990 and last year, with 12,918 left, they closed at the rate of one a day. This is at the same time as farmers have had to cope with higher costs and the failure of the Government to pass on promised single-farm payments.


Source: telegraph.co.uk


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