Act responsibly urges NFU dairy board as milk quotas end after 30 years

As EU milk quotas come to an end this week, NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison has urged all countries to act responsibly and collectively in order to manage future volatility.

Milk quotas were introduced in 1984 to address the structural oversupply on the EU market of the late 1970s and early 1980s that had led to the infamous milk lakes and butter mountains.

Mr Harrison says it’s difficult to predict what will happen once quotas are abolished. “Farmers and dairy processors here do have some concerns about how other EU countries will react to the ending of quotas. Some are rapidly increasing their output without an end market for these goods. With milk prices yet to show any strong signs of recovery, this could push farmgate milk prices down further in the EU, and stall any recovery in the dairy markets. It’s vital that expansion in any Member State is planned in accordance with available market opportunities.

“Here in the UK, it’s been low and volatile prices that have affected milk production rather than quotas – in fact the UK has been under quota for the past 15 years. Environmental factors will play a greater role across the EU in the future especially with plans for ammonia and methane reduction targets on the horizon. Weather and animal health issues, specifically bovine TB are also major factors affecting the UK dairy industry.

“We know a number of tough challenges lie ahead especially with prices but the long-term outlook is good, with growing demand and production opportunities. However, the next government and the EU must do more to ensure a sustainable future for the dairy sector and help make tools available for farmers to manage volatility. We also need UK dairy processors to recognise and promote potential markets both at home and abroad and look to develop new products such as sports drinks.

“Through all of this, it’s heartening that the British public is still supporting the British dairy industry and voting for Great British food. I urge them to continue buying British milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter. Look out for the Red Tractor and keep on backing British farming.”

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