Dairy industry unites to call for immediate action

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

The RABDF is urging every producer who has been affected to fill out a two-minute survey each day to account for losses after the Government called for data on the severity of the issue.
The RABDF is urging every producer who has been affected to fill out a two-minute survey each day to account for losses after the Government called for data on the severity of the issue.

Related tags Dairy Dairy uk NFU

Appeals for urgent government action to save the UK dairy industry during the coronavirus crisis have been backed by the entire supply chain, including UK farming unions, Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF), Dairy UK and the Provision Trade Federation.

The group has written to the Defra Secretary of State George Eustice to reiterate its support for the proposals put forward by the NFU to protect dairy farm businesses from irreversible damage:

• A targeted grant scheme for affected farmers that is similar to the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme;

• A fully funded, government-run voluntary national production reduction scheme; which effectively furloughs dairy cows;

• Engagement with the EU Commission to introduce market support measures, such as Private Storage Aid.

In the letter, they write: “The situation is continuing to escalate rapidly with serious financial consequences for many individual businesses. There are farmers unable to pay their feed companies and having to sell cows. There are dairy companies that, having lost all of their key markets, still have to deal with the milk and find a home for it in an oversupplied marketplace.

Signatories to the letter are:

Minette Batters, NFU president
John Davies, NFU Cymru president
Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland president
Ivor Ferguson, Ulster Farmers Union president
Glyn Roberts, Farmers Union of Wales president
Paul Vernon, DairyUK chairman
Phillip Langslow, Provision Trade Federation chairman
Peter Alvis, Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers chairman

“These may have been isolated impacts to start with, but we know that already around a quarter of the dairy industry has been affected within just a matter of weeks.

“It is important to reiterate that only a matter of weeks ago, all of this milk had a good home, and hopefully in a few months’ time, those markets will return. The British dairy sector wants to be there to meet that demand, so it is crucial that the industry is not irreversibly damaged by this crisis.

“We need action now, as well as a more considered response for the medium and longer-term measures. We cannot over-emphasise the urgency of the current situation. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures, as government is already demonstrating elsewhere. We believe now is the time to do all we can to ensure the long-term sustainability of the UK dairy sector.”

Calls for UK dairy farmers to submit daily accounts of losses

The RABDF is also urging producers affected by the crisis to submit an online daily account of their losses after Government calls for data on the severity of the issue in the UK.

During a roundtable industry meeting last week, Defra requested ‘accurate and credible supportive data’ to back up the industry’s claims for support. 

By completing the survey, the RABDF said it will be able to produce a daily report for the industry and government. This will highlight the severity of the situation and the speed at which it is changing.

RABDF chairman Peter Alvis said, “The situation in the dairy industry is constantly evolving, with different processors and farmers affected each day. It is important, as an industry, we have a firm understanding of the situation, how many producers are affected and the level at which they are affected.

“Friday’s announcement by Government that the competition rules are being relaxed is a step in helping the industry work together and identifying how surplus milk in the supply chain can be rerouted. This survey will help that effort by building a clear picture of how many farmers are affected and the best options for dealing with oversupply.”

Alvis added, “If there is still an issue the industry is unable to solve then as a sector, we must be able to demonstrate clearly to Government how big the problem is and where the issues lie.”

Dairy UK and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) are also working on identifying spare processing capacity, looking at how to stimulate demand and how production can be temporarily reduced.

The RABDF is urging every producer who has been affected to fill out the two-minute survey​ each day.

Related topics Markets Fresh Milk COVID-19

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