Catalonia loses nearly half of its dairy farms in last ten years

Price of litre of milk less than production cost

Cows at a family farm in Santa Maria de Palautordera (by ACN)
Cows at a family farm in Santa Maria de Palautordera (by ACN) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 18, 2018 12:45 PM

Over the last ten years, the number of dairy farms in Catalonia has decreased by nearly half. In 2008, there were a total of 820 livestock farms producing milk, now the number stands at 506, according to the Young Farmers’ Agricultural Association (Asaja).

The head of the milk sector union, Josep Ribas, also explained that as a number of these farms are inactive, the number could even be reduced to between 400 and 450 functioning dairy farms.

There are various reasons for this decrease, the main ones being a drop in the price of milk per litre, ambiguous labelling, and a general drop in consumption.

Ribas highlighted that many dairy farmers are forced to sell below the market price, which leads to an unstable situation.

“Prices are collapsing, and we getting paid the same price for a litre of milk as 30 years ago,” Ribas explained.

Making ends meet

With high production costs, it is “impossible” for smaller producers to make ends meet with the price of milk as it is.

"Little by little, the small farms are disappearing and, either measures are taken to stop it or the entire sector will disappear,” he said.

Out of the 36 cents that it costs to produce a liter of milk, large milk plants are paid between 28 and 31 cents.

“Many have already stopped,” Ribas said talking about operational dairy farms. According to the head of the union, the industry “pressure” in 2015 when milk quotas were suspended and livestock farmers lost production rights “was a ruin for the sector.”

European legislation

European legislation dictates that milk producers must label their product. However, this is not happening, according to Ribas, and therefore the consumer does not know where the milk they are drinking comes from. He also pointed out that part of the milk consumed in Catalonia is imported.

Fighting for survival

Joan Gel is a dairy farmer from Canyamars with arount 100 cows. According to him, small farms cannot compete with the big ones. “It’s like a small furniture shop trying to compete with Ikea, it wouldn’t be able to,” he said.