16 May 1997

Quota profile to iron out blips in monthly output

FOLLOWING prolonged complaints by brokers and farmers alike, the Intervention Board has introduced a new quota profile to better reflect monthly milk output.

"Initially, we thought the drop in summer milk production was a blip, due to the drought in 1995," says IB quota expert, Ruth Tompkins. "But having looked at trends over several seasons with MAFF and ADAS, we decided it was more than a blip and needed to be ironed out."

As such, several days worth of quota is being removed from August, September and October and reallocated to May, June, July and January, February, March. Monthly butterfats have also been adjusted, to allow for more milk solids in the winter months.

Whether these changes are sufficient remains to be seen. A MAFF spokeswoman said that the new profile allowed for weather factors. But more data was needed before any allowance could be made for shifts in calving patterns since market deregulation in 1994.

But some quota brokers question the validity of a monthly profile anyway. "Some farmers treat the profile as gospel and read it like a bank statement," says agent Ian Potter. "But, even though this years is better, it will never get it right as every year differs."

Instead, he advocates a system which predicts the year-end position as each month passes – much as already exists for beef special premium.

Any faith that the IB is now on top of the job has also been undermined by a number of mistakes in its figures for April production.

According to the IB, butterfat adjusted production came to 1238m litres – or 7.44% over quota. But, as Mr Potter explains, the IB has been using last seasons butterfat profile instead of its new one. In fact, monthly production was only 6.9% over quota.

And compared with last years volume figure, April output was only 3.2% ahead. "There is no need to panic yet," says Mr Potter. "But I will be raising this, and other mistakes, at next weeks Milk Quota Experts meeting."

&#8226 Estimates of UK super-levy for 1996/97 have been raised, following revisions to the IBs milk production estimate for March. The revised figure gives an extra 7.8m litres after adjusting for butterfat, taking the cumulative surplus to 68.22m litres. As such, the provisional super-levy increases from £16.5m to £18.6m.n