Amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Farmers’ Union of Wales has written to UK Secretary of State George Eustice, Welsh Government Minister Lesley Griffiths and to major supermarkets highlighting particular concerns regarding the need to protect UK food security and primary producers.
The pandemic has had a significant and ongoing impact upon primary producers and the wider supply chain. High levels of ‘panic buying’ have led to immediate shortages of certain foodstuffs and empty shelves. However, whilst this has brought the importance of domestic food security into sharp focus, the concomitant loss of service markets such as cafes and other outlets have functioned to increase market volatility and have already led to demonstrable price cuts for lamb and dairy producers.
With such impacts likely to continue for many months, it is essential that family-run farming businesses are properly supported by considering interventions such as forms of direct support or tax concessions in order to ensure business longevity. This is especially pertinent given that the Welsh agricultural sector was already under pressure from other industry uncertainties. The FUW has also called for major supermarkets to ensure that the prices paid to primary producers do not threaten the longer-term viability and sustainability of those family farms and businesses which are vital in ensuring that the UK has a secure food supply.
Alongside these concerns, major issues regarding access to the countryside and fast-approaching scheme and work deadlines were also put forward to both Government Officials.
In light of the growth in numbers using Public Rights of Way over the past few weeks, the FUW requested an urgent review of the current policy in terms of access to the countryside and the advice given to those using our Public Rights of Way in terms of minimising the risk of covid-19 transmission.
Both Governments need to act proportionately and recognise exceptional circumstances in terms of scheme deadlines which may not be met as a result of the virus and would normally lead to farm penalties, particularly in relation to the Single Application Form. The European Commission has announced an extension to the deadline for schemes which fall under the Common Agricultural Policy, and the FUW has therefore asked for a similar extension to the domestic regulations for the Basic Payment Scheme.
Since sending the letter to UK Secretary of State George Eustice, the FUW has welcomed his letter to ‘all working hard to feed the nation’ on 26th March which states that “I want to pay tribute to all those who are working around the clock to keep the nation fed – in our fields, processing plants, factories” and that “in many cases you are the hidden heroes, and the country is grateful for all that you have done”. However, the above issues remain and the FUW will continue to lobby for greater security on our family farms.