Huge shifts in milk demand has farmers dumping milk

Dairy Farmers of Ontario has advised farmers that milk dumping, in rotation, will occur beginning this week, as the industry adjusts to the new demand curves during COVID-19 and the social distancing it requires.

Several provinces, Ontario included, saw a large spike in demand at the onset of the virus-induced isolation period. However, the resulting closure of schools, businesses, and many restaurants has shifted milk and milk product demand significantly.

In a letter dated March 31, Dairy Farmers of Ontario says changing demand, an excess of cream, and nearly maxed out skimming capacity may require milk dumping to begin in the coming weeks. Farmers who have to dump milk will be compensated for the milk, and all producers are to continue to produce milk as if it will be marketed (all safety, quality, and component testing will continue).

Alberta Milk says it also has seen changes in consumption patterns. Fluid milk orders did peak at a 24% increase, before pulling back. In PEI, a shift from commercial to retail sales has also created uncertainty in the demand side of milk consumption, and the organization says it will employ mechanisms, such as dairy product storage programs for butter and cheeses, and is “exploring” donations of milk to food banks.

The COVID-19 outbreak remains a deeply concerning health emergency and economic disruption both in Canada and around the world. These unprecedented times have called for unprecedented measures within the dairy supply chain, largely driven by a reduction in demand from food service providers and the hospitality industry.

Cheryl Smith, CEO of Dairy Farmers of Ontario says that dumping milk is an extraordinary measure, and one that Dairy Farmers of Ontario has only ever considered in emergency situations.

“Ontario producers continue to do their part to nourish Canadians with high-quality milk, and we are working very closely with processors and industry groups to respond to the unpredictable market fluctuations that are now part of our current environment. While we aim to be agile in dealing with these circumstances, we must also look ahead to the medium and long term where we expect demand to normalize. The steps we take now are vitally important to the continued strength of our food supply chain and we are proceeding with that important goal in mind,” she says.

All milk boards say they are monitoring demand numbers closely and working with processors to ensure a safe and adequate supply of milk and milk products.

 

Also this week, Quebec-based dairy giant Agropur announced 260 layoffs, 60 of them permanently eliminated positions. Agropur says the roles were “not assigned to essential operational duties.”

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