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Urgent action needed on farms’ cash flow

Unions united: In concerns over cashflow
Unions united: In concerns over cashflow

THE PRESIDENTS of four of the UK’s farming unions met in Brussels today to discuss the steps needed to help the farming sector deal with growing cash flow difficulties.

Action at Wales, UK and EU levels will be essential, with the unions looking to the banks to take a fresh look at the way in which they deal with farm borrowings. In addition, the unacceptable delays in issuing Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments must be urgently addressed.

The four farming unions met with senior Commission officials in Brussels this week to highlight several key EU measures to deliver assistance. This comes after ministers in the Agriculture Council agreed to put forward proposals on potential solutions to the European Commission ahead of the next Agriculture Council in March. The four union Presidents will be lobbying ministers and pressing the Commission to introduce practical measures to support Europe’s struggling farmers.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) must be pressed to speed up its work to refinance farm borrowings, and everything must be done to ensure that trade with Russia is resumed. Export credits as proposed by the French government must be introduced. We also repeat our call for dairy intervention price thresholds to be reviewed. In addition, fertiliser import tariffs must be removed to boost competition in the European fertiliser sector. All of these measures will help to achieve the ultimate objective of taking cash flow pressure off farmers.

NFU Cymru President, Stephen James said: “Farmers across Wales are struggling financially as a result of global factors and delays in payment of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). Whilst we continue to push Welsh Government on the urgency of BPS payments we also believe that there are measures that the European Commission can take that will assist businesses now and help them through the current serious difficulties that are hitting all of Europe’s farmers.

“Agriculture plays a vital role in Wales’ economy, underpinning a food supply chain which is worth £6bn annually, employing around 230,000 people, or 18% of our workforce. Concrete measures need to come out of the next Council of Farm Ministers’ meeting, that can give some immediate relief to struggling farm businesses. We are asking for a suspension of fertiliser tariff imports and the removal of dumping duties to give some immediate relief on costs. Allowing the European Investment Bank (EIB) to refinance farm borrowings with holidays from repayments possible when prices are extremely low would assist with businesses dealing with price volatility.

“Whilst these measures will give some immediate relief, we need to continue our focus on ensuring that the market gives farmers a fair return and that the risk and rewards up and down the food chain are more fairly shared. The Commission have heard the concerns of Welsh farmers loud and clear.”