Farming News - Industry welcomes £10k support for farmers but warns more may be needed

Industry welcomes £10k support for farmers but warns more may be needed

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has welcomed news of a financial support package for dairy farmers in England who have seen a decreased demand for their products as a direct result of COVID-19.

In an announcement by Defra yesterday ( 6 May ) , dairy farmers in England will be entitled to claim up to £10,000 each to cover 70% of their lost income during April and May.

Dairy farmers who have lost more than 25% of their income over April and May due to coronavirus disruptions will be eligible to access this funding for those qualifying months.

No cap will be set on the number of farmers who can receive this support or on the total funding available.

The RABDF is hopeful the money will help support those farmers most severely affected.

RABDF chairman Peter Alvis said: “We are thankful Defra has taken the dairy industry’s needs seriously and has produced a financial support package.

“We would like Defra to keep reviewing support measures for the industry as we are conscious that should our farmers continue to be impacted for an extended period, we will need the government to act quickly and look at some additional support.”

Mr Alvis urged producers receiving a reduced milk value or having to discard milk as a result of COVID-19 to continue filling in the RABDF milk losses survey at rabdf/

He added: “We presented the first round of data to Government last week and we need to continue presenting them with this data. Only by having accurate data can we highlight when additional support is needed.”

Mr Alvis also urged the devolved administrations to follow in Defra’s footsteps.

He said: “Interim results from our survey showed County Antrim was the fourth worst affected county with 1.2 million litres of milk receiving a reduced value or not being collected. As a result, the devolved governments need to look at offering similar support.”

He said the Government also needed to consider the needs of sheep, goat and buffalo farmers producing milk, with many directly affected as a result of the disruption to the food service sector.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “Thankfully, the Secretary of State has heard our calls for help and is stepping in to prevent a catastrophe for the dairy sector. This package of support from Defra will help many iconic dairy farming businesses facing an uncertain future as a result of the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. We know that the dairy sector is just one of many sectors that have been affected by Coronavirus, but we appreciate the hard work Defra has put in to secure this much-needed financial support for many dairy farming families who face losing their businesses.”

NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes said: “The NFU alongside other industry representatives have worked relentlessly over the past few weeks to ensure support reaches those hard-working dairy farmers facing immediate financial hardship due to the effects of market volatility.

“While this support package will be helpful for those farmers who are currently under considerable financial strain, we believe a combination of measures are needed in order to stabilise the industry’s viability for the medium and long term. Dairy farmers need much better contractual protection than they currently enjoy and that needs to be examined by government as a matter of urgency once we move to the recovery phase of the current crisis.

“We are also concerned that the fund covers England only, but will work with the devolved administrations to ensure that support reaches all farmers affected.”

CLA President Mark Bridgeman said:“We welcome the news that dairy farmers have been offered much-needed financial support from the UK Government to help get through these challenging times.

“Many dairy farmers have been experiencing major cashflow problems for weeks due to the food service sector closing down in the midst of Covid-19.

“It’s important that we support our dairy farmers so that they are still able to produce milk for doorstep delivery, retail market and processing into butter and cheese in the future when markets return to normal.

“These grants will help overcome some of their financial losses, but the situation is urgent for many businesses so they must be straightforward to access and quick to pay out.”

Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, Neil Parish MP, said:“The pandemic has hit dairy farmers hard, and the support they will need from Government has been one of the most urgent issues in the EFRA Committee’s ongoing coronavirus and food supply inquiry. I welcome these measures, which will help to sustain livelihoods, and ensure that the British produce used in our industries will be there once we return to normal life.”