Rules governing dairy farmers in Cheshire have been further relaxed to help the industry through the coronavirus crisis.
Farmers are reportedly having to pour away large quantities of milk after demand dried up following businesses closing their doors as part of the lockdown.
In a bid to help the industry Government extended its relaxing of competition rules including allowing sharing labour and facilities, cooperating to temporarily reduce production or identifying where there is hidden capacity in the supply chain for processing milk into other dairy products such as cheese and butter, or skimmed milk powder.
Tatton MP Esther McVey said: “I know from conversations I am having with our local dairy farmers they are struggling with the demand for milk drying up and it is heart-breaking to see reports of milk being poured away as the demand is not there. These are unprecedented times and it is right we think outside of the box and look at ways to help the industry deliver much needed supplies of milk and food. This pandemic is creating enormous challenges right across the country, so we need to find solutions wherever possible and adapt to the new circumstances we find ourselves in.
“I will be speaking to colleagues at Defra this week to see if there is anything else we can do to help our hard-working farmers during these extremely worrying times and will be keeping in touch with my farmers, as I have been, to ensure they know what help is available to them.”
It is estimated five per cent of milk supply is used in take away drinks alone so with the closure of all restaurants, hotels and other venues, demand is at an all-time low.
Earlier this month Government announced temporary changes to rules allowing retailers, suppliers and logistic services to work together to re-direct supply but decided to go further to help surplus milk go to waste.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “Our dairy industry plays a crucial role in feeding the nation and it is essential that they are able to work together at this time.
“We’ve heard loud and clear our dairy farmers’ concerns which is why we are further suspending competition rules law to allow dairy farmers to work together on some of the most pressing challenges they are facing. I am also urging farm businesses to access the loans that are available from their bank to support them in this period.
“We welcome our farmers’ heroic efforts in ensuring food supplies remain resilient and will continue to support them through this difficult time.”
Dairy UK and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) will now lead work to bring the industry together to identify spare processing capacity, how to stimulate demand and how production could be temporarily reduced.