Union calls for urgent interventions to support Welsh dairy farms impacted by Covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 outbreak has seen the almost complete loss of the food service and hospitality markets, as well as increasing price volatility in global markets, which has left farm businesses and processors under increased pressure. This has led to some dairy farmers in Wales receiving significant price cuts, delays to payments and, in some cases, no other option but to dispose of milk on farm because the processor is not collecting it.

The survival of many Welsh dairy farming businesses hit by the Coronavirus pandemic depends on urgent interventions from Government, NFU Cymru said today.

NFU Cymru Dairy Board Chair Abi Reader and NFU Cymru Deputy President Aled Jones represent NFU Cymru on a dairy focus group that Welsh Government has established. In meetings of the group this week, Abi and Aled have stressed to Government the urgency and gravity of the situation.

NFU Cymru Dairy Board Chair Abi Reader said: “Since the beginning of restrictions being announced in Wales, NFU Cymru has been feeding into Government issues within the dairy sector. I am pleased that Welsh Government now has a specific group made up of Government and industry stakeholders seeking to work together to find solutions for the sector.

“We believe there are over a third of dairy farmers in Wales who have already been severely impacted and this number is growing by the day as a result of the impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak. We can envisage this number rising with more processors dropping their milk prices for May. As cows begin to go out to pasture milk production is increasing daily and we expect to hit peak production in mid-May. We need to move fast to mitigate the impacts of this unfolding crisis on dairy farming businesses across the country.

 “A key issue that needs to be addressed is that dairy farmers and processors largely cannot access the Welsh Government and UK Treasury schemes designed to help businesses through this crisis. We cannot furlough staff or stop milking cows, and things like business rate holidays don’t apply to us. We need Welsh Government to extend the eligibility of these schemes so that they can be utilised by those businesses in the dairy sector who are losing significant income right now.

“It’s important for everyone that we protect the UK dairy sector so when our cafes and restaurants open normally again, we have the dairy farmers in business with the capacity to produce milk that forms the basis of healthy and nutritious dairy products which are loved by the nation.”

In a meeting this week with Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths AM, NFU Cymru Deputy President Aled Jones called on Welsh Government to take immediate steps to ensure the sustainability of the dairy sector in Wales.

NFU Cymru Deputy President Aled Jones said: “I would like to thank the Minister for meeting with me and listening to the concerns of the sector. I impressed on the Minister the urgency of the situation and the need for Welsh Government to step in and support the industry. I am also aware that the Minister is working closely with her counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and I hope that collectively urgent and decisive action can be taken before it is too late for many. We need a Government-backed scheme that can take distressed milk off the market for the next  two months until we return to some normality in the sector. We also need specific support for Welsh dairy farmers whose businesses are adversely affected by what is happening out there in the market.”

NFU Cymru have set out the following key asks of Government:

  • The Welsh Government grant scheme for Small Businesses and Economic resilience Fund must be made available for dairy farming businesses affected by coronavirus market disruption.
  • To engage with the EU Commission about schemes such as PSA, production reduction and market promotion to help restore confidence in the market and prevent adverse publicity related to disposal of milk.
  • We are asking Governments across the UK to work together to help the industry through this crisis. We believe that that the UK Government has a role to play in convening key stakeholders and helping to manage flows of milk through the supply chain by helping with measures such as competition law. It is essential that the UK Government confirms that the temporary change to competition law applies to processors and facilitates collaboration on issues like logistics and matching supply & demand, but not on price.

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