Dairy farmers in England will be able to access up to £10,000 each, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause serious market volatility and financial strain in the sector. But some farming organisations are warning that further help may be needed.
After the almost total closure of foodservice and hospitality outlets, the market for around eight million litres of milk a week has been lost, according to the NFU. Over 75 per cent of dairy farmers have been affected by a fall in milk price or delayed payments.
Announcing the new financial support, Defra said eligible dairy farmers will be entitled to up to £10,000 to cover 70 per cent of their lost income through April and May, to ensure they can continue to operate and sustain production capacity, without negative impacts on animal welfare.
Dairy farmers who have lost more than 25 per cent of their income in April and May due to coronavirus will be eligible to access the support, with no cap on the number of farmers who can receive support.
Environment secretary George Eustice said: “Our dairy industry plays a crucial role in feeding our nation and we are doing all we can to ensure they are properly supported during this time.
“We’ve already relaxed competition laws so dairy farmers can work together through the toughest months, but recognise there is more to be done. That is why today we have kick started a new campaign to boost milk consumption and have announced a further package of funding.
“We will continue to stand alongside our dairy farmers through this difficult period”.
More support may be needed
The news follows relentless campaigns from industry organisations to support the 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 added that a combination of measures will be needed to stabilise the industry’s viability in 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.”
The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) welcomed the support from Defra but warned more may be needed.
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.”
RABDF and the NFU are urging the devolved administration to follow in Defra’s footsteps.