Welsh farmers 'dismayed' over £500m Covid-19 fund ineligibility

Farmers say it is 'vital' that Welsh government provides support for farming businesses as a result of Covid-19
Farmers say it is 'vital' that Welsh government provides support for farming businesses as a result of Covid-19

Welsh farmers have called on the devolved government to urgently review the eligibility criteria for the Economic Resilience Fund in order to support them amid Covid-19.

Stricken farming businesses in Wales have expressed 'dismay' that they are not eligible to access the £500m fund established by the Welsh government.

The fund aims to provide extra support to the local economy, businesses and charities experiencing a sharp drop in trading as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, with the disruptions in the supply chain following a difficult winter, farmers are now starting to see severe impacts to cashflow, with some businesses 'reaching crisis point', according to NFU Cymru.

The union has called on the Welsh government's economy minister to review the Economic Resilience Fund to facilitate the provision of support to farmers.

"Farmers are justifiably distressed," NFU Cymru President John Davies said, "Particularly in the absence of bespoke support for farming from Welsh government."

Earlier this month, NFU Cymru wrote to the First Minister Mark Drakeford emphasising that support is going to be 'critical' given the Covid-19 impacts felt by the industry, this included access to fund support.

But farmers are instead being referred to Farming Connect - the Welsh government's industry support scheme - despite it 'falling significantly short' of the level of support needed.

“Whilst we recognise the steps the Farming Connect programme have taken to ensure the service can continue in the context of Covid-19, the Farming Connect 'offer' falls significantly short of the type and level of support many farming businesses now need," Mr Davies said.

NFU Cymru added that farming cannot be 'furloughed' as it is in the 'national interest' that farms continue to produce food for the nation during the crisis.

"We are fully supportive of measures from government to support and underpin the survival of businesses facing unprecedented impacts as a result of Covid-19 – this must include farming," Mr Davies said.

“It is absolutely vital that Welsh government ensures that farm businesses reaching crisis point as a result of Covid-19 are supported so they can continue to fulfil their vital role as food producers underpinning the rural economy”.

It comes as the UK government temporarily relaxed competition rules to allow the UK dairy industry to address current market challenges.

The legislation, which will be laid shortly, would allow the sector to avoid waste and maintain productive capacity to meet future demand.