NFU Cymru has, this week, held virtual meetings with Cardiff and Westminster based politicians in order to explain to them some of challenges the agricultural sector is facing in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the course of two online sessions, one with AMs and the other with Welsh MPs, NFU Cymru President John Davies and Deputy President Aled Jones set out how the significant volatility in the supply chain had been felt very acutely on farms up and down Wales, and was now a real threat to the viability of many businesses.
NFU Cymru Deputy President, Aled Jones, said: “The dairy sector was one of the first to feel the impact of Covid-19 as demand for milk in the foodservice sector disappeared pretty much overnight, with NFU Cymru estimating that of the 1,600 dairy farms in Wales, 700 have been adversely affected by the events of the last few weeks.
“Sooner or later greater normality will return to all our lives, but in the meantime, we need to ensure that we maintain productive capacity for a future when this is behind us. The particular difficulty we face is that it is we cannot furlough dairy cows and turn off production. We need to look at ways of finding spare capacity and new outlets for excess production until the market returns to equilibrium.
“We need to urgently prioritise those worst affected for financial support so they can weather the storm and emerge on the other side. We then need to address failings in the supply chain so that consumer demand is satisfied. We are pleased that government has listened to our request to relax competition law to allow to dairy industry to work together more so that processing and storage capacity can be maximised.
“Having undertaken those measures, any excess milk must be sliced off the market using an incentivised reduction scheme until we pass the time of peak production later this spring and achieve a state of balance.
Commenting on the red meat sector, NFU Cymru President, John Davies, said: “The change in consumer demand has also impacted our beef and lamb producers, and despite the fact that Wales’ livestock farmers are amongst the best in the world, they are being seriously challenged by the current marketplace conditions as price pressures are transmitted back down the supply chain to the primary producer.
“I am grateful to consumers and those retailers who have continued to support Welsh and British farmers throughout this really difficult time. We need to ensure fairness, honesty and transparency throughout the supply chain and we need to look at innovative ways of getting consumers to choose to cook those cuts of meat that they would typically eat in pubs and restaurants, in the home.”
Mr Davies added: “The UK and Welsh Governments have taken some welcome steps to assist businesses that are struggling, including farm businesses with diversified enterprises. Primary production does however need the support that has been given to other sectors of the economy and that’s why NFU Cymru wrote to Welsh Government’s Economy Minister, Ken Skates, last week, urging him to review the eligibility criteria for Wales’ Economic Resilience Fund, so that those involved with producing the food we all eat are also able to access the support they need in order to get through this difficult period.”
Concluding, Mr Davies said: ‘I’m extremely grateful to those AMs and MPs who were able to join us. Over the course of two online sessions, we’ve been able to speak to almost 30 politicians from across the political spectrum, explaining to them the issues the farming sector is facing and it’s been really good to see such a strong level of participation and interest. What we need now is prompt action from governments in Cardiff and London to mitigate the most acute impacts of the current crisis on our sector, and to ensure that those farm businesses which are bearing the brunt of this huge upheaval, are able to emerge from this as viable businesses.”