Plaid Cymru – Action to protect Welsh Dairy Industry is overdue

Plaid Cymru politicians Jonathan Edwards MP and Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM have reiterated calls for the Welsh and UK Governments to take action to defend the Welsh dairy industry following the announcement that milk processor, Dairy Crest, will slash its payments to farmers by 2pence per litre.

At the end of 2011, Rhodri Glyn Thomas co-led a debate in the National Assembly highlighting that the number of dairy farmers in Wales had fallen by over half (51.3%) since 1999, and called on the Labour Welsh government to develop a set of measures to protect dairy farmers from unfair commercial practices, allowing them to obtain a fair price for their product.

The key components of Plaid’s action plan were
a. A baseline standard raw milk contract
b. An enforceable code of practice between farmers and dairy companies
c. Publication of transparent information on the distribution of margins and wholesale prices

Earlier in 2011, constituency colleague Jonathan Edwards used the Westminster European Committee to champion a fair deal for dairy producers stating that farmers were in a weak position by not having sufficient control of the price they receive for their milk.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas said:

“The announcement by Dairy Crest to reduce its farm gate milk prices will a bitter pill for Welsh dairy farmers to swallow – especially when we consider farmers’ milk is already sold below its worth or below its cost of production. A payment of 3 to 4 pence per litre below the cost of production equates to an estimated £65million loss to the Welsh dairy sector every year.

“The number of dairy farmers in Wales has reduced by over half since 1999. This is an extremely worrying statistic and highlights how such tough market conditions are affecting the industry.

“Carmarthenshire is highest milk producing region in the country and many jobs throughout Wales are reliant on the sector. But earning a living from in the industry is becoming a near impossible task.

“If the dairy industry in Wales is to survive, the Labour Welsh government must come forward with an urgent action plan, as Plaid Cymru has set out, to ensure our dairy farmers receive a fair price for their product and have greater contractual protections.”

Jonathan Edwards added:

“If there was any doubt that an end to unreasonable and unfair contracts in the dairy industry was needed, the decision by Dairy Crest this week to cut their price to farmers will erode any misgivings.

“It cannot be fair for a farmer to be required to give 12 months notice to pull out of a contract, but the price a farmer receives for their product can be changed in a matter of days.

“The milk sector is of significant importance to Wales and contributes approximately 10 per cent of the UK’s total milk figure.
“Plaid Cymru’s former Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones AM, recognised the important of the dairy industry and introduced a £3.3million investment programme for the sector when in office.

“The Labour Welsh government must bring forward proposals to protect the Welsh dairy industry as a matter of urgency.”

ENDS

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