The Welsh Assembly Government is to make an £8.8 million compensation package available to sheep farmers in Wales to deal with the effects of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in England.

Rural affairs minister Elin Jones said that if the EU agreed the move it would boost total support to almost £13m, including £3.17m for the light lamb disposal scheme and £1m provided to promote sales of Welsh lamb and beef.

“There is no doubt that the farming industry in Wales suffered as a consequence of the outbreak in England,” Ms Jones told an assembly plenary session.

Area-based payment

“While the Welsh Assembly will continue to press the UK government to provide additional support for farming across Great Britain I am pleased to announce compensation, with £8.7m being made available as an area-based payment to sheep producers in the Less Favoured Areas of Wales.

“£100,000 will be made available to the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution in recognition of the extremely valuable work they have carried out in financially supporting Welsh farming families as a direct result of last year’s outbreak.

“I will announce further details on the level area payment and release of payments to sheep producers as soon as we have received clearance from the EU Commission, which is necessary under state aid rules.”

£40m cost for Welsh farmers

Ms Jones was responding to reports from the assembly’s finance and rural development committees which concluded that F&M’s impact on livestock movements and markets had cost Welsh farmers £40m.

But she claimed that robust and quantifiable data indicated direct costs of £21m of which £19.6m could be attributed to the sheep sector.

“I have consistently said that the Welsh Assembly will do all within its power to support rural Wales and the agriculture industry and today’s announcement highlights that commitment.

“The assembly is providing support on a basis comparable to that for Less Favoured Area farmers in England, which amounted to £ 8.5m. The Scottish Government announced a £26 million aid package,” she added.