Producer numbers in England and Wales continue to tumble

Published 10 January 19

The latest figures released by the Foods Standards Agency (FSA) shows that the elevated rate of producers choosing to exit the industry* has continued for a third month. In January 2019, 33 producers hung up their milking aprons, leaving the industry with 1.9% fewer producers across England and Wales compared to January 2018. A total of 116 producers have exited the industry over the past three months, potentially indicating the start of a period of a higher departure rate from the industry.

Year On Year % Change In Producer Numbers

Since the middle of 2016, exit rates from the dairy industry have been steadily declining, settling at around 1.5% over the past two years. For the majority of 2018, the rate of exit continued to decline, but has accelerated since October 2018.

The current exit rates have not been seen since mid-2016, during the prolonged period of low prices. It is possible that the recent elevated rates come as a result of the turbulent weather conditions experienced during 2018, and the resulting impact on margins. In addition, the proximity of Brexit, and the uncertainty it is creating, may also be influencing producer decisions.

Year On Year % Cahnge In Producer Number By Region

The above figure shows the year on year percentage changes in producer numbers by region. In percentage terms, the East has seen the biggest losses, with nearly 10% of producers in this region leaving the industry in the past year. With relatively few producers in this region however, this translates to a total of 12 fewer producers in the region.

The larger number of exits has occurred in the Far-West, Wales and the North West. As there are a higher number of producers in these regions, the exits account for a smaller percentage of the total compared to the Eastern region.

*It must be noted that due to time lags in processing forms or in farmers informing the Food Standards Agency, these figures may not provide an exact representation of the number of farmers that have ceased producing milk in a particular month.