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Long term viability of family farms must be protected during pandemic

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has written to UK supermarkets and the British Retail Consortium asking them to ensure the long term viability of family farms are protected during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The call comes after dramatic falls in farmgate prices hit livestock and dairy producers over the past ten days as a result of changes to consumer buying patterns and the closure of food service sector outlets such as cafes and restaurants.

Average lamb prices fell by a quarter during the weekend of 21st and 22nd March, while many UK milk processors have announced significant cuts to what they pay milk producers and delayed payments for milk deliveries.

“High levels of ‘panic buying’ have led to immediate shortages of certain foodstuffs and empty shelves,” said FUW President Glyn Roberts.

“Whilst this has brought the importance of domestic food security into sharp focus, the loss of food service sector markets such as cafes and other outlets, coupled with changes in demand, have increased market volatility and led to significant falls in the prices paid to most Welsh producers.”

Similar pressures have also affected beef markets, said Mr Roberts, with a fall in demand for certain cuts putting downward pressure on prices at a time when beef prices had already been at unsustainably low levels for more than a year.

“With major disruption to domestic and global markets likely to continue for some months, and the spectre of Brexit likely to add to uncertainty, it is essential that the family farms which supply the bulk of food to the supermarkets receive sustainable prices for their produce, so that their businesses, and therefore continuity of supply and food security in the long term, are protected”, said Mr Roberts.

Mr Roberts concludes his letter by seeking assurances that the sector will do all it can to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of those family farms and businesses which are vital to UK food security.