‘Targeted hardship payment’ expected for dairy farmers

GOVERNMENT support for dairy farmers facing financial harship after the collapse of foodservice demand is expected within days.

The closure of restaurants, cafes and caterers means up to 10% of fresh milk production no longer has a market. 

Defra initially appeared reluctant to offer concessions beyond relaxing competition laws to help processors work together to divert supplies into retail. 

But it would appear its position has shifted, after concerted lobbying. 

The BBC reported yesterday that a “targeted time-limited payment for badly affected farmers” is likely. 

Talks between industry representatives and the government took place on Tuesday (28/04) to discuss a support package, with an announcement expected imminently.

It comes as the AHDB has released new analysis that suggests a reduction in dairy producers’ milk price over the next three months would have the most significant impact on farm finances. 

RPA offers interest-free loans 

DEFRA is extending its support to claimants of Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes. 

Farmers will receive interest-free bridging loans equivalent to up to 75% of the value of their 2019 payment in May, the RPA said. 

At the beginning of this week, an extension was announced to the deadline for 2020 applications, to 15 June. 

RSPCA Assured goes virtual 

FARMS that are part of RSPCA Assured will now be assessed virtually while social distancing measures remain in place. 

The assurance scheme joins other bodies, like Red Tractor and the British Lion, in conducting its inspections using online communication tools. 

But it stressed that the measures were temporary, and would “reduce the need for RSPCA Assured to carry out follow-up visits in person, when social distancing measures are lifted”.

Other schemes have said remote assessments could remain in place in some form for sectors like pigs and poultry, where biosecurity is a priority.  

Dairy retail growth not enough to offset loss of foodservice

TOTAL DEMAND for dairy products in the UK has dropped by about 2m litres a day since the Covid-19 lockdown.

It is largely due to the collapse of foodservice sector demand, according to an AHDB analysis of Kantar WorldPanel figures.

The analysis shows the liquid milk market has been bolstered by increased retail sales to reach roughly pre-coronavirus levels.

But sales of other fresh dairy products like cheese, yoghurt, crème fraiche, soft cheese, clotted cream and cottage cheese have fallen sharply. 

It is the foodservice losses from these products that means the overall demand for dairy is lower than it was before the lockdown, AHDB said.

Higher covid death rates in rural communities

RURAL COMMUNITIES could be hit hardest by Covid-19 with death rates up to 80% higher than those seen in towns and cities.

The prediction, published in a report by the University of St Andrews, was based on data showing rural areas had a higher proportion of elderly residents.

Co-author Hill Kulu said: “Remote location may offer protection from Covid-19 to some areas, but if the virus is to spread to these communities, the effects will be devastating.”

The Rural Services Network charity said the study showed it was essential that authorities restricted people “heading to rural areas for respite or escape” to prevent such an eventuality.