Plaid Cymru Gwynedd Leader, Dyfrig Siencyn has called on the Welsh Minister of Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM, to voice her support for agriculture, food producers, and rural businesses dealing with Covid-19 and to spell out her proposals for an economic recovery plan for rural Wales.
Cllr Siencyn’s call comes as Co-Chair of the Wales Local Government Association (WLGA) Rural Forum committee.
“We are keen to work with the Welsh Government to ensure that every part of Wales is supported during this unprecedented time. As leader of Gwynedd Council, the rural economy is vital to people and businesses of this area.
“I am keen to understand which support packages the Minister of Rural Affairs can offer to income streams within diversification businesses, such as tourism, agricultural contracting, food and drink etc.
“These are micro companies linked to a farm business that more often than not, are not eligible for any government support packages. These diversification businesses are quite often the difference between staying afloat financially, or not.
“I am also concerned about the welfare and well-being of farmers in rural areas, and interested to understand from the Minister where support for running a farm would come, if a farmer and his / her family became unwell as a result of Covid-19.
“We are in the throes of the lambing and spring calving period on many farms, and in order to ensure the well-being and welfare of the stock, some guidelines and practical measures need to be put in place and communicated with the industry.
“In addition, there are very real threats to agricultural businesses, as a result of Covid-19. Lamb prices have crashed due to the supply chain impact. Hotel and restaurant closures have had a direct and profound impact on the demand for Welsh lamb and beef.
“It is concerning to see in addition, the cheap European import of red meat coming into the UK, due to the demand for minced meat from consumers. It has a direct effect on the value and the overspill of Welsh meat cuts available.
“Within the dairy sector, farmers have being forced to dump thousands of litres of milk daily, as a leading processor who supplies the likes of Costa Coffee, Starbucks, British Airways and P&O cruises, have no profitable outlet for the milk. Surely, this is a time for the Welsh Government to step up and put in place measures to sustain these processors. If this pandemic has taught us anything it is the importance of being able to buy local, fresh Welsh quality produce.”
Councillor Siencyn who co-chairs the WLGA Rural Forum with Powys Cllr Rosemarie Harris also questioned where the WLGA and Welsh Government could work jointly to ensure that small rural businesses could capture the increased demand, when businesses resume their work once Covid-19 regulations are lifted.
“We need to fully ‘rural-proof’ interventions that are put in place by Lesly Griffiths to support the rural economy. I feel it is high time that some of the measures are shared with key individuals, so we can begin the process of delivering support packages to our rural areas across Wales, before it is too late!” Councillor Siencyn concluded.