Government launches hardship fund to help dairy industry
The government has launched a hardship fund to help dairy farmers through the Covid-19 pandemic, enabling them to apply for £10,000 in cash payments.
Mass closures of cafes, hotels and restaurants has had a significant knock-on effect for the dairy industry, as demand for products has fallen.
Dairy producers will now be eligible for government support which will cover 70 per cent of lost income over April and May.
According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, there will not be a cap on the amount of dairy farmers who can apply and receive support, but it stressed that they would need to prove that over a quarter of their income over April and May had been lost in order to become eligible.
Meanwhile, the government has already eased competition laws to help the sector by allowing farmers to share staff and facilities with retailers.
While some dairy farmers have been able to redirect their supply to supermarkets, falling demand has resulted in excess quantities of milk and falling prices, with many supplies having to be discarded.
According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, dairy farmers lost out on a combined £7.4 million in April, merely through falling milk prices, a number which could double in May.
Environment secretary George Eustice said that ministers were doing everything possible to “properly support” the dairy industry through the pandemic.
Eustice said:"We've already relaxed competition laws so dairy farmers can work together through the toughest months, but recognise there is more to be done.”
Addressing the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee earlier this week, National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters said that many dairy farmers were in the midst of an “absolute crisis”.
Batters said: "We have got a lot of them on a relatively stabilised price of 15 pence per litre [of milk]. That is about 10 pence and more below the cost of production. It is not a sustainable place to be."