The increasing input costs for milk production are “threatening the survival of dairy farmers and thus milk production in Europe”, the European Milk Board (EMB) has warned.

The umbrella group for dairy farmer organisations in the EU – which counts among its members the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) – said today (Wednesday, May 4) that, while milk prices have seen an upward trend in recent months, these increases “do not compensate for the extreme rise in costs”.

The EMB cites the increasing prices of fertiliser, feed and energy as the drivers of the rise in input costs.

The executive committee of the EMB says it “demands” price compensations for dairy farmers, saying it is “absolutely necessary”.

The group has highlighted some examples of rising inputs costs eroding farmgate milk prices in various countries.

In Germany, the main dairies in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia paid farmers in the region of 44c/kg of milk in February, which, while an increase, did not account for a cost increase of 10c, putting production costs for those farmers at 53c/kg, according to the state’s Chamber of Agriculture.

In Portugal, price increase of 62% for diesel; 77% of maize; and 140% for nitrogen fertilsers have been reported for April 2022 when compared to April 2021.

For Norwegian dairy farmers, the cost of electricity has more than trebled in the last two years.

The EMB also stated that in some countries, including Italy and the Netherlands, an increasing number of producers are being forced to send their dairy cows to slaughter due to the “explosion in feed prices”.

“This incredibly tense situation is currently forcing many farmers out of milk production and is eroding farming structures in the EU down to dangerous levels,” argued EMB president Sieta van Keimpema.

Her colleague on the executive committee, Elmar Hannen, called for “immediate action to be taken to counteract this threatening development”.

“Further massive losses in the number of farmers is the worst thing that can happen to us in Europe. It will be impossible to recover from this.

“This rapid withering down of the sector will undoubtedly lead to difficulties in food production in Europe,” Hannen added.

He concluded: “An agricultural sector without viable farms – an agricultural sector that is essentially highly industrialised – will be in no position to develop in the desired environmentally-friendly direction.”