Milk and milk product statistics
Data extracted in November 2020.
Planned article update: January 2022.
Editorial note: Throughout this article, which deals with time periods when the United Kingdom was a Member State of the European Union, the acronym EU, however, refers to EU-27, the post-Brexit composition of the European Union as of 1 February 2020.
Another rise in raw milk production to 158.2 million tonnes in 2019, 96 % of which was cows’ milk
The production of raw milk on the EU’s farms was a provisional 158.2 million tonnes in 2019, which represents a year-on-year increase of 1.4 million tonnes. This higher level of EU-27 production can be put in some context by looking at production levels in the run-up to the abolition of quotas; EU farms produced 149.7 million tonnes of raw milk in 2014 and 145.1 million tonnes in 2013.
In 2019, the vast majority of raw milk is delivered to dairies; only 12.1 million tonnes was used on farms, either being consumed by the farmer and his family, sold directly to consumers, used as feed or processed directly. Of the 145.8 million tonnes of milk delivered to dairies, 143.1 million tonnes was cows’ milk, the rest being a combination of ewes’ milk, goats’ milk and buffalos’ milk (see Figure 1).
The average apparent milk yield per cow across the EU still rising
There are a number of factors that can affect individual milk yields but the apparent milk yield results from the structure of the dairy herd. In the EU, the apparent milk yield continued to rise in 2019, reaching 7 346 kg per dairy cow. As a national average, apparent yields were highest in Denmark (9 973 kg per cow), Estonia (9 656 kg per cow) and Spain (9 178 kg per cow) and lowest in Bulgaria (3 627 kg per cow) and Romania (3 217 kg per cow). Among the main cows’ milk producing Member States, apparent yields were well-above the EU-27 average in Germany and the Netherlands but below average in Poland and Italy.
One fifth of the EU’s cows’ milk was collected by dairies in Germany
Traditionally, hygiene rules have required that the collection of milk has been frequent and moved over a short distance between farms and dairies. The development of cooling tanks on farms and of bigger milk tankers have made this sanitary issue less critical. Meanwhile, the removal of national milk quotas has contributed to cross-border milk flows between farms and between dairies. Nevertheless, this is relatively limited.
In 2019, one fifth of the EU’s cows’ milk was produced by farms in Germany and a similar proportion (22.7 %) was processed by German dairies. Indeed, just as Germany, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Italy together provided about two thirds (64.3 %) of the raw cows’ milk produced, so they also accounted for a little over two thirds (66.5 %) of cows’ milk collected by dairies (see Figure 3).
Whilst cows’ milk is the major milk used by EU dairies, in several Member States other milks contribute significantly to milk production. In 2019, Spain produced 1.0 million tonnes of milk from ewes and goats, with Greece and France both producing 0.8 million tonnes. Italy produced 0.7 million tonnes of milk from animals other than cows and this included almost all of the EU’s production of milk from buffalos.
Whereas the collection of these other milks was dwarfed by that from cows in most countries, there were some exceptions. A majority (55.4 %) of the milk delivered to dairies in Greece came from ewes and goats in 2019 (see Figure 4). A little over one fifth (21.4 %) of the milk delivered to dairies in Cyprus also came from ewes and goats.
Small decline in real-terms price of milk in 2019
The average real-terms (deflated) price of milk has fluctuated sharply in recent years (see Figure 5); a strong decline in 2016 was followed by a strong rebound in 2017. Compared with these changes, the real-terms price of milk was relatively stable in 2019 (-0.6 % on average).
Among the principal milk-producing Member States, there were stronger than average declines in the real-terms price of milk in 2019 in Ireland (-5.6 %), Germany (-3.3 %), Poland (-1.9 %) and the Netherlands (-1.3 %). There were also higher prices, particularly in Italy (+4.4 %), Spain (+2.4 %) and France (+2.3 %).
Two thirds of all whole milk available to dairies in the EU-27 is used to make cheese and butter
The milk delivered to dairies is processed into a number of fresh and manufactured products. Dairy products are recorded in terms of their weight. It is thus difficult to compare the quantities of various products (for example, tonnes of fresh milk and of milk powder). The volume of whole or skimmed milk used in dairy processes provides more comparable figures .
In 2019, 145.9 million tonnes of the whole milk available to the EU’s dairy sector was processed.
Across the EU, the production of 2.3 million tonnes of butter and so-called ‘yellow products’ in 2019 required 44.0 million tonnes of whole milk (see Table 1). The production of butter and yellow products also generated 40.4 million tonnes of skimmed milk. Together with the 13.3 million tonnes generated through the fabrication of cream, this skimmed milk was used for the processing of other dairy products.
Indeed, 15.5 million tonnes of skimmed milk together with 57.6 million tonnes of whole milk were used to produce 10.1 million tonnes of cheese in the EU in 2019. Together, the production of cheese and butter used a little more than two thirds (69.6 %) of all the whole milk available to dairies in the EU.
The EU-27 also produced 23.4 million tonnes of drinking milk, from 9.8 million tonnes of skimmed milk and 13.6 million tonnes of whole milk. Drinking milk accounted for about one tenth (9.3 %) of all the whole milk used by dairies in 2019.
In 2019, 3.0 million tonnes of dairy powder products were produced in the EU-27 from 20.7 million tonnes of skimmed milk and 4.5 million tonnes of whole milk.
Germany produced about one fifth of the EU’s drinking milk (19.6 %), butter (18.7 %) and cheese (22.7 %) in 2019. The other main cheese producing Member States were France (a provisional 1.9 million tonnes, 19.2 % of the EU total), and Italy (1.3 million tonnes, 13.1 % of the EU total).
Source data for tables and graphs
Milk and milk product statistics are collected under Decision 1997/80/EC and implementing Directive 1996/16/EC. They cover farm production and the utilisation of milk, as well as the description (structure), collection and production activity of dairies. Due to the small number of dairy enterprises, national data are often subject to statistical confidentiality. Thus, providing EU totals in this context is a challenge and some of the information presented in the analysis is based on partial data for the EU Member States (which may exclude several countries).
On the one hand, statistics from these few enterprises provide early estimates on trends. On the other, a complete overview of the dairy sector requires detailed information from farms and this means that the final figures on milk production are only available at an EU level about one year after the reference year. Dairy products are recorded in terms of weight. It is thus difficult to compare the various products (for example, fresh milk and milk powder). The volume of whole or skimmed milk used in the dairy processes provides more comparable figures.
The abolition of milk quotas in 2015 resulted in a restructuring and further modernisation of the sector, including a re-orientation towards the most productive herds, more intense cross-border milk flows and increased volatility in production. Over recent years, milk prices have followed the global milk fat market.
There is no ‘typical’ European dairy cow breed, though the Holstein-Friesian is prevalent.
- Agriculture (t_agri), see:
- Agricultural production (t_apro)
- Milk and milk products (t_apro_mk)
- Agriculture (agri), see:
- Agricultural production (apro)
- Milk and milk products (apro_mk)
- Fat contents and protein contents (cow's milk) - annual data (apro_mk_fatprot)
- Milk collection (all milks) and dairy products obtained - annual data (apro_mk_pobta)
- Cows'milk collection and products obtained - annual data (apro_mk_cola)
- Cows'milk collection and products obtained - monthly data (apro_mk_colm)
- Production and utilization of milk on the farm - annual data (apro_mk_farm)
- Dairies structure - triennial (apro_mk_str)
- Milk and milk products (apro_mk)
- Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics — 2020 edition (statistical book)
- Animal production (ESMS metadata file — apro_anip_esms)
- Commission Decision 1997/80/EC of 18 December 1996 laying down provisions for the implementation of Council Directive 96/16/EC on statistical surveys of milk and milk products (Text with EEA relevance)
- Directive 1996/16/EC of 19 March 1996 on statistical surveys of milk and milk products
- Summaries of EU Legislation: Statistical surveys of dairy products
- Two dimensions (quantities of whole and skimmed milk used) reflect the material balance of the valuable milk components, especially fat (in whole milk only) and protein (in total milk used).