Great Yorkshire Show: One in seven North Yorkshire dairy farms closes in just three years

One in 10 dairy farms in England and Wales have closed in the last three years, according to new figures revealed as the Great Yorkshire Show got under way in Harrogate today.

The number of farms has fallen by 1,000 since June 2013, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) said.

Despite the strengthening of dairy prices, they are still below sustainable levels.  Picture: Tony Johnson

Despite the strengthening of dairy prices, they are still below sustainable levels. Picture: Tony Johnson

The board said it was concerned about the price of milk paid to farmers.

The highest loss by any county was North Yorkshire, which saw 89 farms disappear, the equivalent of one in seven.

An AHDB spokesman said some farmers were still paid around 10p a litre less than it cost them to produce the milk.

Last year, farmers held protests over the price they were paid for milk, closing a Morrisons distribution centre with their demonstration.

Angus Hodge, a dairy farmer at Padworth, Berkshire, said: “The last couple of years have been a struggle with the milk price dropping but we’ve had to trim our costs, with eyes to the future when the milk price picks up.”

Meanwhile, shoppers will be given the chance to pay more for their milk in a Yorkshire-based supermarket with the launch of a fresh drive to stave off the dairy industry crisis amid the dramatic fall in prices.

The dairy co-operative, Arla, launched a new scheme yesterday which will add 25p on to four pints of milk that are on sale in Asda, which has its headquarters in Leeds, with the money returned directly to dairy farmers.

The revenue generated will be shared between the co-operative’s 12,700 farmer owners, including the 2,700-strong membership in Britain.

Among those who are set to benefit is Roger Hildreth, whose family has farmed at Hessay, near York, since 1887.

Mr Hildreth, who runs a 180-acre farm with 170 dairy cattle, now gets 19p for a litre of milk, compared to as much as 34p only two years ago.

He said: “The volatility of the market now is enormous, we are at the mercy of global demand which has fallen while milk production has increased.

“It has been very difficult times for the dairy industry, and when I tell people how much we get for a litre of milk these days, they are left literally open-mouthed.

“This is a fantastic step by Asda, and while supermarkets are often much maligned, this gives consumers the chance to support dairy farmers by paying that little bit extra for their milk.”

The launch of the new initiative comes in the wake of research that revealed almost two-thirds of consumers would pay more for dairy products if they knew the extra money goes back to farmers.

The study of 2,000 shoppers also revealed that 43 per cent of people named “to support British producers” as the main reason that they would pay more for a product, followed by fair trade (37 per cent), organic (27 per cent) and for animal welfare protection purposes (28 per cent).

Arla Farmers Milk became available in ASDA stores from yesterday in a four-pint format, with both semi-skimmed and whole milk options selling for £1.20.

The new Arla Farmers Milk was officially launched on the first day of the Great Yorkshire Show and it will kick-start a nationwide roadshow in July and August. The roadshow will highlight the work the Arla farmer owners do on a day-to-day basis to provide dairy products for consumers across Britain.

Arla Foods amba farmer board director, Jonathan Ovens, said: “The launch of this new milk is a great boost to our dairy farmers.

“People want to know more about where their food comes from and who benefits and are willing to pay more if they know it goes directly to the farmers that produce it.

“As we’re part of a cooperative, the money we receive goes back to the farmers who supply our milk. With farmgate milk prices much lower than we would like, we thank ASDA for the support of our cooperative principles and for providing an opportunity for shoppers to give something back to dairy farmers.”

With its origins dating back to 1881, Arla Foods UK is the largest dairy company in the country and is home to dairy brands including Anchor and Cravendale, with a turnover of €2.9bn.

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