The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers has appealed to MPs to urge the retail and food service sector to buy British dairy products in an attempt to stem the mounting trade deficit in the UK dairy sector.
During the last 10 years, the sector has suffered a 1.5 billion litre swing from being a net exporter to a major net importer, the association’s chairman, Lyndon Edwards told the APPG for Dairy Farming’s annual meeting in London this week. Furthermore, the UK continues to export commodity dairy products while importing higher value goods, he said.
“UK milk production has dwindled during the past decade from 14.06 billion litres to 12.8 billion litres, a trend which has been influenced by falling farm gate prices and the increasingly unfair distribution of margins within the supply chain – retail share has increased from 6ppl to 16.5ppl during that period.
“Consequently, we are becoming increasingly dependent on imported dairy added value products, whilst being content to export commodity products and a diminishing volume at that,” he said. Last year the UK imported 1.1m tonnes of product worth an average £1,818 per tonne, compared with exports totalling 865,000 tonnes of product and worth a significantly lower £918 per tonne.
The trade gap has recently become more pronounced, he said. Imports rose from £1.53 billion in 2005 to £1.99 billion last year, while exports grew over the same period by a mere £42million to £784 million. That import figure includes cheese imports which increased by 50% on the year to 300,000t, of which 135,000t was traded with Ireland,
“UK dairy production has fallen to a 40 year low at a time when domestic consumption of dairy product is increasing at almost 0.5% per year. Unless UK dairy farmers are given the confidence to reinvest, then production will continue to decline at its current rate of 2.5% per year. By 2030, levels may reach 7.5 billion litres resulting in the need to import 53% of our dairy products to meet projected consumption needs.”
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