By Patrick Meagher
TORONTO – Several hundred Ontario dairy farms dumped two days’ worth of milk last month as milk processing factories put the brakes on production. Food service demand in hotels, restaurants and schools collapsed after the province, on March 28, banned gatherings of more than five people due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though food demand in grocery stores has increased, processors were forced to cut their supply line. Ontario supplies about one-third of Canada’s milk.
“We informed producers these measures would be necessary on a select and rotating basis,” said DFO chief executive officer Cheryl Smith, in a prepared statement. “Producers share the costs of their lost revenue. All producers will take lower pay for the milk so that any producer requiring to dispose of milk is still compensated.”
She added that disposing of milk is an “emergency measure only” and could continue. The good news from grocers is that “The flow of milk and dairy products through the food supply chain is beginning to normalize, and the inventory situation at grocery stores is improving,” an April 21 DFO statement said.
One dairy farmer confessed that she “stood and cried when she opened the tap this morning.”
The Dairy Farmers of Ontario told its about 3,400 producers not to speak publicly about dumping milk and producers who ship over-quota face a $20 per hectolitre penalty. Dairy farmers in five provinces — Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. — have dumped milk, equal to about 2 per cent to 5 per cent of their total supply.
Few fresh cows are now showing up at livestock auctions. Said one Ontario auction worker: “Nobody wants fresh cows. They’re bringing them through for beef.”
Meantime, milk dumping has also drawn the ire of consumers. Some farmers have had to deal with shrieking tweets from non-farmers wailing about the sin of dumping milk in a time of crisis. DFO reiterated that it already donates milk to food banks and is seeking a way to improve access to pasteurizing and processing to donate more.
Strathroy’s Andrew Campbell was among the farmers asked to dump milk and he dumped more than 4,000 litres. He argues that it’s hard for dairy farmers to send more to food banks. “A food bank can do nothing with a 40,000-litre tanker at its back door,” he said. “They aren’t processors. If anyone knows of an available line that can pasteurize, process, and package milk, I’d love to hear from them. But all those lines are tied up filling orders for grocers.”
Farmers dump two days’ worth of milk in April
By Patrick Meagher