Milk sector crisis narrowly averted
Supplies go 'on tour' as dairies struggle to cope with volume surge
A major crisis for the milk processing sector was narrowly averted after a surge in production pushed dairies to the limit last month.
Although companies were not forced to "dump" supplies, one industry source admitted that "milk was on tour" around the country in the first fortnight in June as processors struggled to deal with the volumes coming at them.
The pressure mounted at the end of May and into June when excellent weather and grass growth combined to drive milk production to near record levels.
While dairies have remained tight-lipped on the crisis, some have admitted privately that the difficulties highlighted the capacity limitations in the industry.
"There were no reports of milk being dumped but there were weekends when some processors came close," one senior industry official said.
"Most liquid [milk] plants don't process on Sundays so that pressure falls back on the manufacturing plants," he said.
It has been established that several of the processors experienced difficulties in handling the intake at peak times, with some smaller operators appearing to have been among those worst affected.
Some dairies were hit by two peaks within a three-week period, and a serious crisis was only avoided by the movement of milk between processing plants and co-ops and the full usage of all available storage.