A laptop containing confidential milk quota details for 13,000 dairy farmers has been stolen from DairyCo.
The business laptop computer was stolen last month when a DairyCo employee had their car broken into.
In a letter of apology to quota holders, DairyCo senior director Ken Boyns described the theft as both embarrassing and highly regrettable.
The theft appeared opportunistic as a number of other cars were also broken into at the same time, he said.
No personal or financial data that could be used to defraud quota holders or their farm businesses was contained on the computer, Mr Boyns claimed.
But the information consisted of names, addresses, phone numbers, volume of quota held and trader reference numbers, he admitted.
“What is exasperating is that a regular data handling review had already identified this laptop-held information as a data risk,” said Mr Boyns.
“Measures had been agreed to have it removed and the laptop hard drives wiped clean.
“Unfortunately, this theft happened before these measures had been fully implemented.”
A copy of the stolen information was now only available on a secure head office computer, Mr Boyns said.
” We will be looking again at all our data handling processes to ensure that any necessary improvements are implemented too,” he told farmers.
“This theft is both embarrassing and highly regrettable to all of us in DairyCo and I apologise to you for not looking after your data more securely.
It is the second time in little more than a year that a government quango has lost confidential information belonging to farmers.
Last summer, the Rural Payments Agency lost confidential data belonging to 100,000 Single Farm Payment claimants.
Computer tapes containing bank details, addresses, passwords and security questions were discovered missing in May.
This latest incident is believed to be less serious.
But concerned quota holders who wish to speak to DairyCo about the theft can call 02476 478 887 or contact their local extension officer.