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The entire dairy supply chain has backed an appeal to the Government for urgent action to save the dairy industry from “irreversible damage” as pressure caused by the coronavirus outbreak continues to mount. UK farming unions, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF), Dairy UK and the Provision Trade Federation, have written to the Defra Secretary of State George Eustice in support of proposals to protect dairy farm businesses set out by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) earlier this month.
Many dairy farmers are facing severe financial pressure due to the closure of restaurants and cafes as a result of the government’s lockdown guidelines, with some being forced to dispose of milk or sell cows. In a matter of weeks, the NFU says a quarter of the dairy industry has been affected.
In the letter signed by industry executives, the group has called on the government to provide a targeted grant scheme for affected farmers similar to the Retail Hospitality Grant Scheme; to provide a fully funded, government-run voluntary national production reduction scheme, which would effectively furlough dairy cows; and to work with the EU Commission to introduce market support measures, such as Private Storage Aid.
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.
“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.”
The group calls for immediate action, as well as more considered measures for the medium and long term. The letter continues: “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.”