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UK dairy industry groups unite behind calls for urgent government action to save sector

20 April 2020

Appeals for urgent government action to save the dairy industry have been backed by the entire supply chain, including UK farming unions, 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.

“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.”

What dairy farmers should do next 

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) is urging producers affected by the COVID-19 milk crisis to submit an online daily account of their losses to meet the Government calls for data. This will ensure the Government will get an accurate picture of the severity of the issue in the UK. 

During a roundtable industry meeting on 15 April, Defra requested "accurate and credible supportive data" to back up the industry’s claims for support.

By completing this survey, the RABDF 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.

“The 17 April 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.”

Mr 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 short 2-minute survey each day. The RABDF survey can be accessed here.


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