The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers has called on the Government to introduce Ofmilk, a voluntary milk regulator that would help tackle downward milk prices and restore farmer confidence.

The RABDF, which this week met with All Party Parliamentary Group for Dairy Farmers' chairman Daniel Kawczynski, said that while it was simple to establish dairy farmer and processor margins, an independent arbiter was needed to do the same for retailers and foodservice operators.

"An Ofmilk would provide help, build some confidence and trust in the industry, which it drastically needs, and stem the unabated decline in farmer producers and subsequent total UK production," said RABDF chairman Lyndon Edwards.

The UK was near the bottom of the EU milk price table, and now had to import one million litres of milk a day after 13,000 producers had quit the sector over the past decade, he added.

The RABDF call came as producers in the Republic of Ireland vented their fears about their future.

Collapsing milk prices could force thousands of producers out of the industry, a Dublin parliamentary committee was told last week. Farm leaders, co-op representatives and executives from Bord Bia called for help from both the Irish Government and the EU to rescue the sector.

Padraig Walshe, president of the Irish Farmers' Association, said that producer prices were less today than 30 years ago - yet milk prices for consumers had tripled. He called for a code of practice to restore balance between producer returns and retail prices.