UK government helps dairy farmers

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

The deal so far only includes dairy farmers in England.
The deal so far only includes dairy farmers in England.

Related tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, NFU

A support package to help English dairy farmers hit by an economic storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been announced by government.

It follows industry-wide campaigning for urgent help for the dairy sector.

In an announcement by Defra, dairy farmers in England will be entitled to claim up to £10,000 ($12,390) each to cover 70% of their lost income – as long as the loss is more than 25% of their income – during April and May.

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

The financial support comes after the closure of foodservice and hospitality outlets, resulting in the loss of a market for around 8m liters of milk every week. This has affected more than three quarters of all dairy farmers through drops in milk price or delayed payments.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU), generally praised the deal.

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.”

The NFU dairy board chairman, Michael Oakes, added that more measures were needed.

“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,”​ Oakes said.

“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.”

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) also praised the deal, again with hopes that more would be done.

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.”

He also 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.

He said, “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.”

Alvis also urged the devolved administrations to follow Defra’s lead, noting that results from the ongoing RABDF survey showed County Antrim in Northern Ireland was the fourth worst affected county with 1.2m liters of milk receiving a reduced value or not being collected.

Oakes also said the NFU will work with the devolved administrations to ensure support reaches all farmers affected in the UK.

And Alvis noted that the Government also needs to consider the needs of sheep, goat and buffalo farmers producing milk, with many directly affected as a result of disruption to the food service sector.

Related topics: Markets, Fresh Milk, COVID-19

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