19 January 2001

UK forecast to have less than 10,000 producers

THERE could be fewer than 10,000 milk producers left in the UK in 10 years time, according to one pundit at this weeks conference in Glasgow.

John Allen, managing partner of Kite Consulting and former head of ADAS farm business unit, predicted that, by 2011, more than half the UK milk output would be in the hands of just 2000 producers.

"These will be herds mainly of 300-500 cows, needing major investment," he said. "And they will account for at least half the current 14bn litres of annual UK milk production.

"But not all producers need to go into this race to expand. Decide where you want to be and dont go on some ego trip to be the biggest and the best unless you are certain you can make it work," he said.

Another 4000 farmers would form the mid-production range by 2011, Mr Allen said. They would expand by increasing yield and quota, producing about 5bn litres from 150-200 cow units.

"These people should feed their cows better, breed better, buy quota and bank the money they make," he said.

The remaining 4000 producers, made up of those starting out in dairying and others gradually exiting the industry, would have small herds, accounting for a combined 2bn litres.

In 1994, at the time of deregulation of the UK dairy industry, there were more than 35,000 producers. &#42

Producers should be wary of joining the race to expand dairy units, warns John Allen.