Plaid Cymru is calling for the Welsh government to take action on the falling milk prices affecting Welsh dairy farmers.
Plaid representatives, assembly member Rhodri Glyn Thomas and MP Jonathan Edwards have suggested a series of actions to support the Welsh dairy industry amid the growing milk crisis.
- The establishment of a dairy equivalent to Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales), to effectively promote and market Welsh milk
- Use of Rural Development Programme funding to develop supply chains to minimise volatility
- Enhancing procurement policies to better support the Welsh dairy sector
- And making more effort to encourage local processing of value added produce.
The Welsh dairy industry contributes about 10% of the UK’s total milk produced. But since 1999 the number of dairy producers in Wales has fallen by 51.3%.
Mr Edwards, who met with Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) representatives and farmers recently to discuss the crisis, said: “Without any doubt we have an emerging milk crisis on our hands.
“Through our shadow agriculture minister, Llyr Huws Griffiths AM, Plaid Cymru is advocating a number of ways in which the Welsh government can support the industry.”
Mr Edwards said that promoting and marketing Welsh milk and encouraging greater local procurement were crucial.
He added: “Sourcing local milk and dairy products will benefit everyone.”
Mr Edwards said supermarkets also had to fulfil their promises and start to support British agriculture.
“We must ensure supermarkets also play their part and do not use the price drop to increase their margins,” he added.
“Supermarkets made a promise to support the farming industry during the horsemeat scandal. This is an opportunity to show they are true to their word.”
“Without any doubt we have an emerging milk crisis on our hands.”
Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP
Mr Thomas said the milk crisis would be the first real test of the new team of ministers responsible for agriculture in Wales, and called for “firm and swift action” from the government.
He said there was room to strengthen the voluntary dairy code.
“Plaid Cymru understands the need to strike a balance between protecting suppliers and allowing processors to be sufficiently responsive to the markets, the fact that 12 EU countries now provide for compulsory contracts suggests it should be considered again.”
A Welsh government spokesman said they remained committed to encouraging a sustainable and profitable dairy industry for Wales.
He added: “We continue to work closely with DairyCo to ensure Welsh dairy farmers receive value for money for their levy contributions.
“The deputy minister for farming and food is also working with the Dairy Task Force to identify priorities for support through the next Rural Development Programme.
“These priorities will support the Food and Drink Action Plan to grow the industry by 30% to £7bn by 2020.
“Emphasis will be on improving technical efficiencies on farms and supporting the development of shorter supply chains and new products to take advantage of emerging and existing markets.”