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Farming union holds ‘robust and frank’ exchanges with Government over desperate dairy situation

Recent milk market turmoil due to Covid-19 impact on supply chains has led to a series of dairy crisis meetings taking place across industry to seek ‘meaningful action’ and avoid a national catastrophe.

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Farming union holds ‘robust and frank’ exchanges with Government over desperate dairy situation 

In a ministerial meeting today (April 15) with Defra, NFU president Minette Batters and dairy board chairman Michael Oakes highlighted the need for a multi-pronged approach to avoid ‘instability of the supply of milk to the public short term, and irreparable damage to the milk supply chain long term.’

 

Severe market disruption, with unprecedented demand in retail and the collapse of the food service sector due to Covid-19, has seen falling milk prices and delayed payments from processors, with milking being dumped by some farmers.

 

Freshways, Pensworth and Medina Dairy were among the first to announce farmers were to receive delayed payments during April and May to negate the impact of the spreading virus and Muller producers were recently told to cut production by 3 per cent until the end of May despite an 1ppl milk price increase.

 

It is estimated one-quarter of the UK’s milk producers could be adversely impacted by the crisis, with 25 per cent of dairy farmers in Wales already affected.


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Desperate situation

Ms Batters said: “We are absolutely united on the scale and immediacy of the problem. It is clear we all agree on the need to act now to prevent a catastrophe in rural Britain.

 

“The UK dairy industry is a nourishing part of our food supply chain and plays a key role in the national effort while Covid-19 ravages the country.

 

“It faces unprecedented disruption in the short term because it cannot furlough its dairy cows, and its farmers cannot make use of the considerable Treasury support measures like other sectors of the economy."

The meeting discussed the urgent need for:

  • a targeted grant scheme for affected farmers (similar to the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme)
  • a Defra convened ‘Supply and Demand Management’ round table under competition laws exemptions to maximise the flow of available milk through the supply chain
  • the delivery of a national production reduction scheme
  • further engagement with the EU commission to access market support measures.

Mr Oakes said these four key asks of Government, if delivered together, would help avoid the decimation of this critical part of our national infrastructure.

 

Mrs Batters added: “The modest interventions we have outlined today will ensure we continue to supply the country in the short term while maintaining the productive capacity of this most iconic of sectors post-lockdown.

 

“I know Secretary of State George Eustice understands the dairy industry very well and I look forward to working with him to progress these arguments across Whitehall before the weekend.”

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