Slow start as new milk year stutters under way

12 May 2000

Slow start as new milk year stutters under way

By Robert Harris

THE new milk year got off to a sluggish start, according to provisional figures released by the Intervention Board this week.

Butterfat-adjusted deliveries during April totalled 1.178bn litres, nearly 56m litres, or 4.5%, below profile. That is the biggest deficit since 1995, when IB figures were first used.

But it is no real surprise, says Jonathan Smith of BK National Quota Exchange. "One-and-a-half days supply is quite a big shortfall. But in March, many producers put the brakes on to stay under profile, and April suffered from a knock-on effect."

Cold, wet weather, which prevented many farmers from turning cows out, also affected output. Some had to eke out poorer forage stocks, notes Charles Holt, of the Farm Consultancy Group.

Quota markets have shrugged off the news. Prices remain much where they were two weeks ago, says Mr Smith. Permanent transfer is worth about 19.5p/litre at 4.06%, while leased 4% can be had for 4.2-4.3p/litre.

"We have a lot of larger producers waiting to come into the market, but they are looking at 17p/litre for average butterfat supplies. With this news, they may well get it over the next few weeks."

Mr Holt agrees. "The figures are bound to put a dampener on the market. While there may well be only limited numbers of vendors willing to move, where is the news to push the market up?"

Although the figures may fuel further talk of the UK not meeting quota, Mr Smith thinks that is unlikely. "It may be close, like 1998/99 which started in a similar way. But many larger producers are looking to take up any slack."

However, while OTMS figures show an increase in cow culling in the first quarter of 2000, in-calf heifer numbers remain the same. "Its possible that we wont reach quota," says Mr Holt. "But Im not advising any clients not to take cover."

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