This week, a virtual briefing was held by NFU Cymru to explain the challenges which the agricultural sector is facing in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The briefing, attended by the local Member of the Senedd for Montgomeryshire, Russell George MS, heard from NFU Cymru President, John Davies, and Deputy President, Aled Jones, who set out how the significant volatility in the supply chain had been felt very acutely on farms in Mid Wales.
Following the briefing, Mr George said:
"I'm grateful to NFU Cymru for hosting the online briefings for Members of the Senedd to highlight the real concerns which the farming community have about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the long term viability of their businesses.
"Despite being the backbone of the rural economy, farmers in Wales are being left in the dark by the Welsh Government over what specific support might be available to them.
"It is a matter of great regret that farmers are not eligible for the Economic Resilience Fund, and there has been very little detail on the bespoke package’of support that might be brought forward by the Welsh Government for the agricultural sector. It is simply not good enough that the Welsh Government has yet to provide any clarification on specific support for an industry that is facing an uncertain future - including the dairy and red meat sectors, which are of course facing a number of incredible challenges.
"I believe that the Welsh Government should use the extra financial flexibility provided by the UK Government to rapidly amend the eligibility criteria for the Economic Resilience Fund, or to bring forward an urgent bespoke package so that our farmers can continue with their work in helping to feed the nation during this concerning time."
NFU Cymru Deputy President, Aled Jones, added:
“Sooner or later, greater normality will return to all our lives, but in the meantime, we need to ensure that we maintain productive capacity for a future when this is behind us. The particular difficulty we face is that it is we cannot furlough dairy cows and turn off production.
“We need to urgently prioritise those worst affected for financial support so they can weather the storm and emerge on the other side. We then need to address failings in the supply chain so that consumer demand is satisfied."
Commenting on the red meat sector, NFU Cymru President, John Davies, said:
“The change in consumer demand has also impacted our beef and lamb producers, and despite the fact that Wales’ livestock farmers are amongst the best in the world, they are being seriously challenged by the current marketplace conditions.
“The UK and Welsh Governments have taken some welcome steps to assist businesses that are struggling. Primary production does however need the support that has been given to other sectors of the economy and that’s why NFU Cymru wrote to Welsh Government’s Economy Minister, Ken Skates, last week, urging him to review the eligibility criteria for Wales’ Economic Resilience Fund, so that those involved with producing the food we all eat are also able to access the support they need in order to get through this difficult period.
"I’m extremely grateful to those AMs and MPs who were able to join us. What we need now is prompt action to mitigate the most acute impacts of the current crisis on our sector, and to ensure that those farm businesses which are bearing the brunt of this huge upheaval, are able to emerge from this as viable businesses."