Struggling dairy farmers are set to receive a one-off support payment as part of the EU’s €500m (£368m) direct aid package for farmers.
English farmers will receive £15.5m of the UK’s £26.2m share of the support package - equating to an average payment of £1,800 per dairy farmer, to be paid by the Rural Payments Agency in December.
Scotland will receive a total of £2.3m from the fund, while the Northern Irish and Welsh governments will receive £5.1m and £3.2m respectively, with each devolved administration given flexibility about how to use their allocations, according to Defra.
“We recognise that many dairy farmers are suffering financial difficulty at the moment and this support will offer some relief,” said environment secretary Liz Truss.
But while it was “right that the immediate focus is on support for farmers’ cashflow”, Truss warned it was “equally important that we help build for the long term” with the development of a dairy futures market remaining a priority for the UK government alongside looking at ways of “bringing greater fairness and transparency to the supply chain, using the success of our Groceries Code Adjudicator as a model that could benefit the whole of Europe”.
The announcement of the farmer support package was welcomed by NFU president Meurig Raymond, who said it would provide a “welcome cash boost for thousands of those are experiencing devastating price cuts and market volatility”.
However, he warned more needed to be done to lessen the burden of red tape for farmers, while NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison added that dairy products “must be more clearly labelled as British and the EU must commit to a technical review of the dairy intervention scheme”.
NFU Cymru milk board chairman Aled Jones said the package would provide “some short-term relief” but warned “it does not alter the fact that the [average] farmgate milk price remains well below the cost of production”.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s allocation of £2.3m was described as “disappointing” by rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead, who added it took no account of “the challenges facing Scottish farmers such as the wet weather and issues also facing our lamb sector”.
And despite Northern Ireland’s relatively large share of £5.1m, Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ian Marshall warned the one-off payment would “not aid financial recovery” for the beleaguered dairy sector in Northern Ireland, with the wider farming sector remaining “disappointed that the difficulties they are experiencing have been largely ignored by both Defra and the EU.