PLAID Cymru has demanded an emergency support scheme to help Welsh farms survive the catastrophic impact of the covid-19 pandemic, describing the Welsh Government’s response as appallingly slow.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Llyr Gruffydd AM said it had been “clear from day one” that the majority of farm businesses in Wales were ineligible for the general business support schemes announced last month and that they had been hit hard by lowered prices, delayed payments and a reduction in production.
Mr Gruffydd said the industry had been left “running up losses and running out of time” and that a failure to offer a “bespoke support scheme” for struggling farmers was “deplorable”.
Ben Lake MP, Plaid Cymru’s Rural Affairs Spokesperson at Westminster, said weeks had passed and the agriculture was “still waiting” for support from the Welsh and Westminster Government.
Plaid Cymru have supported calls to repurpose some of the RDP funds to provide “an uplift in farm payments to help struggling producers in addition to calling for compensation for farmers for temporarily reducing milk production at a time of oversupply.
Mr Gruffydd added that Government should also consider taking the oversupply of milk into “private storage” or for “social distribution through food banks”.
The Shadow Rural Affairs Minister added that Hybu Cig Cymru / Meat Promotions Wales should also be given the resources to “significantly expand its promotional work” and ensure home-grown produce and the sales of higher value cuts of meats were prioritised and promoted.
He warned that the sector would face “devastation” unless action was taken by Governments immediately.
Plaid’s Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Llyr Gruffydd AM, said,
“It’s been clear from day one that the vast majority of farm businesses in Wales are ineligible for the general business support schemes announced last month. It’s also been clear that farms have been hit hard by lowered prices, delayed payments and being told to reduce production, even having to pour milk down the drain. It leaves much of the industry – particularly in the beef and dairy sectors, running up losses and running out of time.
“No business can survive for long if it’s producing at a loss and accumulating large debts. That’s why the failure to offer a bespoke support scheme for struggling farmers is deplorable. The seriousness of this situation certainly hasn’t been reflected in the Government’s response so far.”
Plaid’s Rural Affairs Spokesperson at Westminster, Ben Lake MP, said:
“The Welsh Rural Affairs Minister has already and quite rightly announced a scheme to support fishing businesses hit hard due to the public health crisis. Vessel owning fishing businesses are now entitled to a £10,000 grant with the Minister explaining she was offering direct financial support because many in the sector are facing the loss of their livelihoods and the permanent closure of their businesses. Agriculture is facing the exact same crisis and therefore deserves similar support.
“Many weeks have now passed since these issues became evident yet we’re still waiting for both the Welsh and UK Governments to take decisive action. Whilst we’ve seen some movement, such as easing competition laws for milk processors, this is far from being enough.”
Llyr Gruffydd AM added,
“Plaid Cymru supports calls to repurpose some of the RDP funds to provide an uplift in farm payments to help our struggling producers. We also need action to correct the supply/demand imbalance caused by coronavirus. Farmers should, for example, be able to access compensation for temporarily reducing milk production at this time of oversupply.
“The Government should also be working with processors to pursue all opportunities to take more milk either through increasing produce that could then go into private storage or for social distribution through food banks.
“Hybu Cig Cymru/Meat Promotions Wales must be given the resources to significantly expand its promotional work, whilst more needs to be done through the supermarkets to promote home-grown produce and maximise the sales of higher value cuts of meats.
“Time is not on our side. The spring flush over the coming weeks will mean even more displaced milk and with many farms losing thousands of pounds a week the Government can’t drag its feet any longer. If we’re serious about long-term food security then helping our producers survive this crisis has to be a priority. As things stand much of the sector is facing devastation unless action is taken immediately.”