Fears for Gloucestershire cheese over cheap Irish dairy imports
CHEESE and dairy farmers in the county are urging people to go local and stay local in the face of an influx of cheaper products.
Bargain Irish cheese and milk could be set to make a huge dent in Gloucestershire's dairy industry thanks to changes to EU quotas – just as imports are already increasing.
Cheese industry bosses said the massive hike in imports in the past year will be a taste of things to come when, from 2015, farmers are allowed to produce as much milk as they like and take their chances on a largely unregulated market.
Farmers in Germany, France, Ireland and Poland will produce 10 billion litres of extra milk between 2015 and 2020 once the quota is removed.
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Cheese maker Diana Smart from Smart's Gloucester Cheese in Churcham, said she hoped there would always be a strong market for local produce.
She said: "At the moment we are short of cheese because so many people are buying it.
"We are not tremendously worried because people out there will still want locally produced cheese."
Smart's Gloucester Cheese currently sells Single Gloucester, Double Gloucester and Harefield cheese.
The most popular at the moment is Single Gloucester.
Diana added: "Let's hope the new quota does not affect us and we keep the foreigners at bay."
The increase is equivalent to twice the amount of milk Ireland currently produces in a year.
Matthew Baber, who is the fourth generation to run his dairy farm in the Forest of Dean, said he was concerned for the industry but would not be directly affected.
He said: "Anything like this is always worrying."
Imports of cheese this summer were up by almost 16 per cent in just one year.
Nigel White, secretary of the British Cheese Board, said the rise in imports was down to the poor 12 months from the wet spring and summer of 2012 to the long, cold winter. That affected dairy farmers as there was less feed, production dropped and prices rose.