Milk output remained sluggish in the opening month of 2006, with producers delivering 1.152bn butterfat-adjusted litres to buyers.

That falls 13m litres short of the Charles Holt/Farmers Weekly profile and pushes the cumulative shortfall to 301m litres over the 10 months of the milk year so far.

Milk buyers insisted that they still had no concerns over liquid supplies. Dairy Crest’s milk purchasing director, Arthur Reeves, said: “The fall is almost inevitable if we’re heading for a scenario where we’re 1.3bn litres down by 2007.

But if we do it right, it should be the lower price products which get eliminated, improving the average farm-gate milk price.”