6 April 2000
Farmers face flood of milk imports

By Johann Tasker

MILLIONS of litres of liquid milk are being imported into Britain – despite the crisis in the sector which has seen prices fall to their lowest for 30 years.

More than 112 million litres of raw milk were imported last year, mainly from the Republic of Ireland, according to figures released by the government.

Small quantities of milk for human consumption have also been imported from mainland Europe, including countries as far away as Germany and Austria.

The revelation will come as a body blow to hard-pressed British dairy producers who have seen domestic milk prices fall to as little as 16ppl.

The scale of the imports is revealed in a parliamentary written answer from junior agriculture minister Joyce Quin to Labour MP Nick Ainger.

It shows that 6.7m litres of drinking milk was imported last year from Belgium and Luxembourg, 13.2m litres from France, and 10.2m from Germany.

Ms Quin added: “The vast majority of imports of raw milk into the United Kingdom are from the Republic of Ireland.

“Between 1997 and 1999 small quantities were also imported from Austria, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands.”

Ms Quin said it was not possible to separately identify trade in UHT milk from other trade in other types of liquid drinking milk.

The National Farmers Union has warned that thousands of farmers could go out of business after milk prices fell to their lowest in real terms since the 1970s.

The value of the milk imports is roughly equivalent to the 22m in aid to dairy farmers announced by Tony Blair at last weeks farm summit.