Weather-hit dairy farmers promised government aid

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Jersey farmers have been hit hard by the exceptional and extreme weather conditions that have plagued producers across the British Isles and Europe throughout this year with sub-zero temperatures and heavy rainfall in the first few months followed by record-breaking summer heatwaves and droughts.

The combined effects have reduced crop yields, delayed growing cycles by up to six weeks and left pasture land brown and parched, stopping grass from growing.

Dairy farmers have been hit particularly hard as they have not been able to stockpile food reserves, such as silage made from grass and forage produced from barley and maize, that are essential to keep cattle fed when they go inside for the winter.

Faced with having to find an estimated extra £500,000 to import cattle feed to maintain milk-production levels in line with local demand and meet export contracts to the UK and Far East, the Island’s dairy farmers co-operative has turned to Economic Development for support.

Andrew Le Gallais, who heads the Jersey Milk Marketing Board, which owns Jersey Dairy, said they had asked for a matched-funding partnership arrangement with government.

‘We don’t go running to government for every single problem we face but the weather conditions over this summer have been completely out of our control, so we feel we have a strong case as this is having a significant effect on our cash flows and our profitability,’ he said.

‘This is very important as it is not just about our members and producing Jersey milk, it is about the Jersey cow, protecting our special brand and the Island’s prime cultural asset.’

Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham said that public cash would be available after the industry submitted a report outlining the problems it faces.

With global food prices already starting to rise due to crop failures and reduced yields because of this year’s extreme weather conditions, Senator Farnham said it would not be fair to pass on increased costs to Islanders.

‘Andrew first came to us in early August to let us know that there was going to be a problem,’ he said.

‘The current estimate of increased costs to the industry is in the region of £500,000 and a plan is being worked up between us. The dairy industry will cover some of the burden and the States will put in some cash.

‘This will probably be between £150,000 to £200,000. We are going to make sure the industry is looked after by ensuring farmers are given the appropriate amount. I can confirm they will have States financial support to make sure they can weather this storm, whatever that support happens to be, we will find it.’

Senator Farnham has not ruled out coming to the aid of the Island’s arable farmers, who are also facing increased costs from months of having to irrigate crops and loss of income due to reduced crop yields and failures when fields turned to dust bowls.

‘My door is always open. As I have said in the past, we need to nurture our traditional industries like tourism and agriculture and in the uncertain periods such as this the States stands ready to assist as necessary,’ he said.

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