Farmers urge people to drink more milk as lockdown hits demand

Scotland's farmers' union is urging people to drink more milk after a drop in demand due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

They're putting it down to the closure of coffee shops and restaurants while the country is on lockdown.

In some parts of the UK, farmers have been forced to pour gallons of milk down the drain. Though that's not happening regularly in Cumbria and southern Scotland, many in the dairy industry are worried.

10%

of UK milk is supplied to cafes, restaurants and hotels.

Credit: PA wire

Gary Mitchell has a dairy farm in Stranraer, in Dumfries and Galloway. Like many dairy farmers, business is built on small margins and large volumes of milk.

When images of panic buying first emerged, he was glad to see milk in many people’s trolleys - but that was before the true effect of lockdown emerged for his industry. He said: " I have taken many calls from farmers questioning why people are not using the same amount of milk at home as they would do in a normal situation.

"The data I’ve studied so far is that approximately 10 per cent of UK milk is supplied to cafes, hotels etc, then we have wholesalers who also supply food manufacturing companies.

"One simple example is that the UK has almost 28 million households and if they make instant coffee or have a cup of tea at home they will be using at most 20-30ml of milk in their drink, but a latte or cappuccino from a high street chain will use from 120-150 ml per cup so when you do the sums that is a huge drop in liquid consumption."

Some farmers are already being told by producers to pour away thousands of pints of milk at the time of year - Spring - where there’s an abundance.

Gary says not all will survive the crisis. He said: "Many cows have now calved and are being fully grazed, so we project milk volumes are still set to rise.

"At the current time industry experts suggest there are over a million litres surplus daily in the UK, and historic data concludes this figure will rise by 20 May, the traditional date of spring flush peak.

"So as dairy farmers, we have a big challenge ahead. Can we ease production enough in the short term without damaging the long term?

"If we assume the virus comes under control in the same timescales as China, then the management of both milk supply and demand in the next 12 weeks are crucial."

During the press conference on Monday, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she will ask Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP to speak to the NFU about further coronavirus support for dairy farmers.

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