Coronavirus: Welsh dairy farmers welcome hardship fund

Welsh dairy farmers have welcomed the announcement of a funding package to help those hardest hit by closure of cafes, restaurants, pubs and hospitality venues.

Lesley Griffiths, Welsh government rural affairs minister, has confirmed that dairy farmers who have lost more than 25% of their income in April and May will be entitled to up to £10,000 to cover 70% of their lost income.

This will help ensure they can continue to operate without affecting animal welfare and the environment. Further details on the application process for the scheme will be announced shortly. 

See also: Coronavirus: 4 tips for dairy farmers hit by slump in milk demand

It follows a similar support scheme announced by Defra secretary George Eustice for dairy farmers in England. However, governments in the devolved nations of Scotland and Northern Ireland have no plans for equivalent funding packages.

“The overnight loss of the food service market as a result of Covid-19 has affected many Welsh dairy farmers,” said NFU Cymru deputy president Aled Jones.

“We are pleased the Welsh government has recognised the impact this is having on many dairy farming businesses, and has now come forward with a hardship package for those affected most by the current market conditions.”

The funding will help address immediate cashflow problems faced by dairy farmers, some of whom have been forced to throw away milk because their processors have been unable to collect it. Many more have received massive price cuts to well below the cost of production and significant delays to payments.

Promotional campaign

NFU dairy board chair and South Wales dairy farmer Abi Reader said the announcement will be a comfort to dairy farmers who are currently facing the biggest losses over Covid-19.

She added: “We sincerely hope that this support, alongside the announcement earlier this week of the AHDB/Dairy UK promotional campaign backed by government across the UK, alongside the opening of Private Storage Aid by the EU and changes to competition law announced by the UK government last month, will help to provide some short-term stability to the Welsh dairy sector.”

Welsh Conservatives’ Andrew RT Davies MS, the shadow minister for rural affairs, said the announcement was “better late than never”.

Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland’s farming minister, said Stormont was considering a “different approach”, as the effect on its dairy farmers “may become evident more slowly, last longer and be more widespread”.

The Scottish government said it was aware that some dairy producers in Scotland have also been affected by the loss of markets in the service industry. Therefore, officials “would be meeting shortly with producers to explore what, if any, additional assistance might be appropriate for the sector in Scotland”.