The Government is currently considering implementing a new hardship payment for dairy farmers following warnings that thousands of cows could be slaughtered.
Demand for dairy products in the hospitality sector has fallen significantly due to the closure of many cafes and restaurants, which in turn has forced some farmers to discard excess milk.
Phil Langslow, Chair of the Provision Trade Federation estimates that 20 million litres of liquid milk a week would normally have been going into the foodservice industry with only around 20 per cent of that market still viable during the current lockdown.
Talks recently took place between Government officials and industry members where a ‘doomsday scenario’ was raised involving the potential culling of around 4 per cent (80,000) of the national herd of nearly two million.
Whitehall sources have indicated that officials are now looking at the idea of a hardship fund, which could take the form of a targeted time-limited payment for badly affected farmers.
The former Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, said: “There is an urgent need for some form of a rapid hardship fund for the minority of dairy farmers, who temporarily have no market for their milk, to avoid seeing cows slaughtered.”
His comments were supported by Chris Loder, the Conservative MP for West Dorset, who agreed that the Government must act urgently to provide a hardship fund to support dairy farmers in desperate need to avoid any culling of the national herd.
The National Farmers Union, Dairy UK and the Provision Trade Federation have also proposed action including targeted grant support and a scheme whereby some cows would effectively be “furloughed”.
The current Environment Secretary, George Eustice will discuss the issue with senior politicians, while talks with MPs and trade reps are also due this week.