It's not just French quality cheeses who are finding themselves in trouble with the Covid-19 crisis.
According to the Stilton Cheese Makers Association (SCMA), which represents the UK’s Stilton producers, sales have declined by up to 30% as a result of the closure of the country’s hospitality and events industry, farmers markets and with export markets also being in lockdown.
The trade body is urging consumers to buy Stilton and other British cheeses to support the industry and prevent producers going out of business.
This drop in sales is also having an impact on British dairy farms. The Stilton cheesemakers use milk from at least 70 farms across Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, many of which are fifth generation dairy farmers.
Stilton is the UK’s most popular blue cheese, which was first written about by Daniel Defoe, who called I the ‘English parmesan’ in the early 18th century and now holds a unique status in British culture - it is the only cheese in the UK with a certificated trademark to protect its British heritage, so it can only be made following a time-honoured tradition. Only six dairies are licenced to produce both Blue Stilton and White Stilton cheese.
In response to the pandemic, the Stilton cheesemakers are having to reduce the amount of Stilton they are making whilst trying to process all of the milk from the farmers which supply them to avoid wasting it.
The SCMA is also concerned that the current situation will discourage the next generation of cheesemakers and that some producers could go out of business as the food service industry remains locked down and contracts. They are also exploring alternative distribution channels such as mail order where this is feasible, to get Stilton to their customers.
To protect such an important part of the UK’s cheese-making heritage, the SCMA is calling on consumers to buy Stilton rather than continental blue cheese, reminding them that it is as versatile as any blue cheese from France or Italy.
Robin Skailes, Chairman of the SCMA and Director of Cropwell Bishop Creamery, said: “Like many British food producers, Stilton sales have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope that the British public will support us by buying Stilton instead of imported blue cheeses which, in turn, will support British dairy farmers.”