Welsh dairy cows©FLPA/Rex

Increasing Wales’ milk processing capacity is a priority under the Welsh government’s plans to boost the dairy sector.

The Welsh government announced its action plan for the dairy industry on Tuesday (24 March) following an independent review by Andy Richardson, Volac’s head of corporate affairs.

See also: Scots Dairy Action Plan unveiled

Mr Richardson, who interviewed more than 100 farmers and industry stakeholders across Wales, made 26 recommendations in his report.

A weakness identified in the review was insufficient milk processing capacity in parts of Wales.

The Welsh government said it would support a feasibility study examining the potential for a dairy processing facility in south-west Wales.

Mr Richardson believes this could provide a secure, added-value market for the extra 400m litres of milk Wales is likely to be producing by 2020.

The study will be undertaken under a Welsh Dairy Leadership Board, which is to be established following one of Mr Richardson’s recommendations.

Wales’ deputy farm minister, Rebecca Evans, said current capacity meant farmers had to rely on processing outside of Wales, a situation she described as a “significant risk’’ to the sector’s long-term viability.

“Adding value to the product and retaining that value in Wales is critical and we must look at innovative ways to achieve this. Securing a market-driven and successful processing facility in Wales is something that we should urgently consider.”

Plaid Cymru shadow farm minister Llyr Gruffydd AM said it was a “step in the right direction’’.

Mrs Evans confirmed that she would review the milk industry’s voluntary code of practice annually to ensure that it is “fit for purpose’’.

She also accepted a need to make Wales’ sustainable land management scheme, Glastir, more attractive to dairy farmers.

The report has been largely welcomed by the farming industry.

NFU Cymru’s milk board chairman, Aled Jones, described it as a  “valuable opportunity’’ for the Welsh government and farming industry to tackle problems in the sector.

“We are pleased that the farm minister has accepted the recommendations and NFU Cymru look forward to getting involved and pushing each and every one forward in a meaningful and determined manner to make a difference to the Welsh dairy sector,’’ he said.