Why are producer numbers dropping so quickly?

Published 12 February 19

According to data from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the number of dairy producers in England and Wales has fallen by 222 (2.4%) in just four months. However, this may not be a true reflection of the rate of farmers exiting the industry, and the data should be treated with caution.

The FSA database tends to be updated quickly when a new farmer starts up production, but not necessarily when a farmer exits. Deregistering is unlikely to be top of the “to do” list for a farmer leaving the industry, and the FSA will often only capture this cessation when they carry out a regular check.

The FSA checks occur on a 10-year basis (for those registered with Red Tractor) or a 2-year basis otherwise. In-between these checks, FSA will often rely on Red Tractor data to identify farmers who have ceased, and this is where a proportion of the latest drop in farm numbers has come from. The most recent Red Tractor database has highlighted to FSA a number of potential cessations, which they are currently working their way through. A number of those farmers stopped many years ago.

According to FSA, we are likely to see further drops over the coming months as that cleansing exercise continues.