Welsh dairy farmers are being forced to pour their milk into slurry lagoons amid an intensifying crisis in parts of the supply chain.

Farmers supplying Freshways were warned of delays to milk collections at short notice.

Freshways mainly supplies companies such as Costa Coffee, Starbucks, British Airways and P&O cruises and, as such, has lost the majority of its milk sales because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

An email sent to suppliers on April 5 said: “Due to ongoing restrictions which are leading to more stringent handling procedures, staff shortages, slower production etc you may experience delays in farm collections.

“Please take whatever action is needed to ensure that the quality of milk which is collected will still meet the standards required.

“This may unfortunately mean that some milk will have to be tipped.”

Ceredigion farmer Llyr Griffiths had to dispose of 11,500 litres of milk.

“They (Freshways) asked us to dump the milk due to the amount of staff that were self-isolating,’’ he said.

His criticism is not levelled at Freshways but at the government which had pledged to assist businesses affected by Covid-19.

“I am yet to see any real financial help to the processor’s business or us as farmers,’’ said Mr Griffiths.

The latest blow follows an announcement by Freshways on March 19 that it would cut milk prices to 24p/litre and delay payment to farmers as it was incurring losses by selling milk on the spot market

Other processors are also cutting the milk price by 2p/litre, including Medina Dairies; its farmer suppliers will see the standard litre price fall to 23.75p/litre from May 1.

The pain of milk price cuts is already being felt by farmers like Mr Griffiths.

“We already know we are losing 2p per litre, therefore we are working at a loss, as well as a deferral in payment until May 15,’’ he said.

If government action isn’t forthcoming, he questions the future for him and for his family farm.

“I’m hopefully going to be the fourth-generation farming on our family farm. But if the farmer carries on being on the bottom of the pecking order, then I doubt my son will want to be the fifth, and I am sure this is true for many other young farmers,’’ he said.

“It is time for change, we need government action.’’

The NFU has warned up to 30 per cent of dairy farmers could be affected by milk price cuts relating to the slump in demand caused by the coronavirus crisis.

Measures such as intervention buying and the underwriting of the value of milk produced are being considered.

Currently there is no specific support among the Welsh Government’s measures to support dairy farmers who are not getting paid for their milk.

Rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths acknowledged that the dairy sector had felt an immediate impact from the closure of the food services sector.

“I am aware of the impact the realignment of the supply chain is having on processors and primary producers,’’ she said.

"I have written to the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, emphasising the need to collaborate as governments to use the powers available to us to protect the UK agri-food supply chain during this difficult time, and to mitigate against the severe disruption this crisis is causing to our producers and processors."