Milk deliveries to dairies in July were still well below the levels seen a year earlier, according to the Rural Payments Agency.

Between April and June, the shortfall on last year was at a high level of 4.5% and 5%. In July, the gap fell to 2.6%. But this still left dairies with 32 million litres less to process than 12 months previously.

Milk availability since the start of the current milk quota year has now fallen by 212 million litres or 4.2% compared with the same period in 2003.

This four-month period is normally one of peak output, but this year’s output is the lowest seen for three years.

However, the RPA says that UK wholesale milk producers collectively exceeded their annual European Union milk quota in the year to March 31 by 24 million litres.