DAIRY FARMER numbers could fall below 10,000 in the next few years, according to the Milk Development Council, prompting concern over future milk production.

In 2003/2003 the number of registered milk producers fell by 11%. This year, the figure fell below 16,000.

Ken Boyns, market analyst at the MDC, suggested the rate of farmers leaving milk production would increase.

“The major issue will be for milk buyers, as there could be a reduction in supply. Buyers will have to think about the milk they need and what they need to pay for it.”

Tom Hind, chief dairy adviser at the NFU, said: “These figures are quite stark.

“A lot of our previous assumptions have been based on quota holding figures but these bear out the need for serious thought about the future.”