The dairy board of the Welsh National Farmers’ Union (NFU Cymru) has warned of a “huge risk” to the dairy supply chain if Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) proposals go ahead.

The board said that the Welsh government’s SFS proposals, in their current format, pose a huge risk to the Welsh dairy supply chain.

Welsh dairy production is worth almost £850 million to the Welsh economy, the union said, and accounts for almost half (47%) of the total output of Welsh agricultural production.

The Welsh dairy sector also generates employment, estimated at more than 5,300 people directly employed on Welsh dairy farms.

In addition, with around 50% of milk produced in Wales being processed in Wales, the sector supports a further 1,250 jobs in the wider dairy manufacturing sector, NFU Cymru said.

NFU Cymru dairy board chair, Jonathan Wilkinson, said: “The growing global population is driving demand for dairy products upwards and our ability to produce climate friendly and nutritious milk in Wales means we are perfectly placed to supply consumers around the world.

“However, according to Welsh government commissioned research on the ‘Potential economic effects of the Sustainable Farming Scheme Phase 4 Universal Actions Modelling Results’ undertaken by a consortium led by ADAS the proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme could restrict Welsh dairy farmers from accessing this opportunity.

“If the modelling undertaken became a reality on Welsh farms, then it could see Wales producing over 368 million litres less milk. To put this into context, that is equivalent to taking over 648 million pints of milk off the shelves around the world.”

Carbon and cow reduction

Wilkinson said the milk produced in Wales has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world, with the carbon footprint of UK milk production of 40% of the global average.

“The modelling published by Welsh government suggests that these proposals could see more than 45,000 less dairy cows in Wales,” he said.

“Not only will this put thousands of livelihoods across the whole supply chain at risk but, by destocking our farms, we become less productive to the detriment of not only our net zero ambitions but also the consumers we are depriving of our healthy, nutritious milk.”

Wilkinson said rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths has committed that she wants future agricultural policy in Wales to work for all farmers, and that this must include dairy farmers.

“I urge the minister to listen to the views expressed to her by the Welsh dairy industry and to change her proposals to safeguard the continued production of quality, nutritious and climate friendly milk in Wales for generations to come,” he said.