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Fears are growing in Japan that large amounts of milk may have to be discarded during the year-end and New Year’s holiday period due to a temporary oversupply.

The Japanese dairy industry has strengthened its production capacity since the butter shortage that hit the country around 2014. However, the amount of milk increased this summer as cool weather provided a good environment for dairy cows to grow.

Industry groups are now calling on people to consume milk and other dairy products this winter as demand for milk in school meals will decline during the winter break.

It would be the first time since 2006 for Japan to see large amounts of milk poured down the drain.

“There’s a concern that the supply-demand balance will be eased more than usual, leading to the production of milk that can’t be consumed,” agriculture minister Genjiro Kaneko told a news conference on Tuesday.

The amount of milk produced in April to October this year rose 2.6% from a year before, according to the farm ministry.

The Japan Dairy Association, which is composed mainly of dairy groups nationwide, estimates that the amount of excess milk will reach some 5,000 tons year-end, judging from the production volume in October.

Japan is also facing growth in the amount of powdered fat-free milk, an ingredient for lactic acid beverages and yogurt.

Due to a plunge in demand for milk amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the production of powdered fat-free milk, which can be stored for a long time, has increased drastically as a result of school closures and requests for businesses to temporarily suspend operations.

Stocks of powdered fat-free milk may increase further as a result of an oversupply of milk, industry sources said.

It is difficult to expect a sudden recovery in demand for the use of milk in souvenir sweets and other products as travel demand is unlikely to pick up sharply anytime soon, the sources said.

Against this background, the dairy industry is trying hard to expand consumption by developing beverages and other products using a lot of milk.

“We’ll make efforts in close cooperation with parties concerned to expand consumption,” Kaneko said.

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