The EC is to begin selling butter and skimmed milk powder from its intervention stocks from next week.

It plans to release 25,000 tonnes of butter and 191,000 tonnes of SMP as market prices are currently comfortably above intervention levels. However farmers' bodies have warned the EC not to risk destabilising the market.

"We urge Brussels to exercise extreme caution and ensure the selling price is not below the current market price, in order to avoid any drop in milk prices," said Copa-Cogeca secretary general Pekka Pesonen.

"Farmers cannot face any further pressure on prices." Since the EC closed intervention stocks late last year, UK milk utilisation has changed significantly. Only 19 million litres of milk were put into butter in March, 18.5% down on last year [Defra]. Instead, some 25 million litres were put into yoghurt, an uplift of 25.7% year-on-year.