Half the milk leaking out of Wales

Published 9 December 15

The volume of Welsh milk being processed outside Wales has increased to approximately 900m litres, according to AHDB estimates. This represents nearly half of the milk produced in the country.

It is estimated that a decade ago, less than 20% of Welsh milk left the country to be processed elsewhere. Since then a number of dairy sites have closed, including virtually all the liquid processing sites and two significant cheese factories. At the same time, Welsh farmers have increased milk supply, with volumes increasing 350m litres over the last five years.

No new dairies of any significance have started up in Wales over the last ten years. Investment in dairy processing has been mainly limited to improvements in existing sites. The biggest five processing sites, who handle 90% of the milk processed in Wales, have increased production over the period, but not enough to cope with the increase in total milk availability.

It does make economic sense for liquid milk to be processed close to the consumer. Water is left in the product and it is more efficient to transport milk in bulk tankers than in plastic bottles. Given the majority of British consumers are in England, it is no surprise that liquid processing has reduced so much in Wales. However, a significant proportion of Welsh milk will find its way into commodity products, produced in England. The industry is effectively transporting 75 tankers of water per day out of the country, when it would be more efficient to remove the water from a number of those tankers close to the milk fields.

Furthermore, Wales does not have a milk balancing site, which means the volume of milk exported out of the country is highly seasonal. If the industry wants to address these issues, it should focus attention on helping existing milk processors expand their operations, and look at a more efficient balancing option for the country.

A feasibility study is currently being undertaken looking at processing facilities in South West Wales which could help provide answers to the above.

Half the milk leaking out of Wales 09.12.15