N.S. dairy producers dump milk in the middle of COVID-19

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Some dairy farmers in Nova Scotia have dumped milk outside their barns to accommodate a recent 3% quota cut.

“No one likes to do this,” said Gerrit Damsteegt, dairy producer from Shubenacadie. ” It’s not funny. “

Nova Scotia dairy producers began cutting April 1 to adapt to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Damsteegt, chairman of the board of the Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia, said that dumping milk is only a last resort. They looked at all the other markets available, including donations to Feed Nova Scotia.

Damsteegt is one of 200 dairy producers in Nova Scotia.

Its herd of 140 cattle is slightly larger than the average size of the province’s dairy farm. It produces up to 4,500 liters per day, all of which are purchased by the group of dairy producers and then sold to processors.

Gerrit Damsteegt is a dairy producer in Shubenacadie, N.S. (CBC)

Damsteegt said he hasn’t had to throw milk yet, but believes his time is coming soon. “This kind of rotation,” he said. “It is really sharing the loss. “

Spike, then decline

Producers experienced a sudden surge in demand in early March when consumers rushed to grocery stores to buy as much as they could.

But it stabilized, then declined. Damsteegt believes that the actual demand for milk in Nova Scotia today is not reflected in the number of bags and jugs available in grocery stores.

“There is definitely a gap between the quantity sold in the store and really the demands of consumers,” he said.

In other words, if there are empty shelves where the milk should be, it doesn’t mean there is a shortage of milk.

Jim Cormier of the Retail Council of Canada says it is not only grocery stores that are slowing things down for the dairy industry. (CBC)

On Tuesday, dairy farmers were sending images of signs to grocery stores reminding buyers that they could only buy four liters of milk per visit. Damsteegt said it creates a bottleneck that he is trying to eliminate.

He said farmers appreciate the challenges retailers face when trying to impose physical distance inside their stores, but he said it hurts producers.

Jim Cormier of the Retail Council of Canada has said that it is true that some stores have limits on the amount of milk consumers can buy.

But he said it’s no different from the milk producers themselves who enforce limits. The market is in unknown territory and the whole chain is cautious.

“We just ask for patience because… the store manager knows how to manage his store better. They understand supply chains. They understand the demands of customers who regularly visit this store. ”

Other retail closings that have an impact

Cormier said it’s not just grocery stores that are slowing things down for the dairy industry.

“Other clients are schools. These are now closed. Restaurants. These are now closed. Cafes. These are now closed. You can continue on and on, ”he said.

“So we just want to make sure people understand, because this issue has come up in the past few weeks and sometimes it has been said a little unfairly … that retailers are responsible.”

Damsteegt said he was grateful that, in many ways, business continues as usual on the farm.

“In the morning, I still have to get up,” he said. “I still have to go and milk the cows.” I still have to feed them. I still have to do my daily tasks. And yes, it was hard for many people

“It will affect the economy as a whole but we will get there. We will see the light at the end of the tunnel. “

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