UK may have to buy milk in before long

THE dairy industry is warning that the traditional daily pinta is at risk as UK milk output sinks to its lowest level in 39 years.

Domestic milk supplies are fast approaching the 1971 levels when national output was 12.9bn litres.

In that time the dairy industry made huge efficiency gains but the number of milk producers has plunged amid falling economic returns.

Milk experts Kite Consulting has predicted the UK could be facing a shortage of milk by November 2011. The country would then become reliant on milk imports and exposed to the vagaries of global markets.

NFU Cymru president Dai Davies said: “Everyone involved in buying, processing and retailing milk need to wake up to the fact that security of supply is no longer guaranteed.

“Unless action is taken to increase production, the UK could be seeing shortages of British-made milk, cheese and other dairy products.

“We could be facing a situation whereby shoppers may not find the full range of British dairy products on the shelves. Shortage is a real threat.”

Figures from the Rural Payments Agency show that between April 2007 and March 2008, milk production fell to 13.2bn litres – down from the previous annual figure of 14.1bn litres.

Annual milk demand in Britain is around 12.6bn litres, with consumption rising 3% in the last 12 months.

Milk prices rose last autumn but profit gains were mostly wiped out by rising prices of inputs such as feed and fuel. Farmers say they need at least 30p a litre to remain viable.