In what Policy & Resources Committee president Peter Ferbrache described as ‘a perfect storm’, soaring inflation in the sector has seen the cost of feed and fertiliser escalate, largely due to the war in Ukraine, and this, coupled with the continuing dry weather, led P&R and Environment & Infrastructure to provide the funding.
‘We cannot stand by and let such a special part of our Guernsey identity disappear, because if we do it will almost certainly be lost forever,’ said Deputy Ferbrache.
Environment & Infrastructure president Lindsay de Sausmarez said it was no exaggeration to say that unless fast action was taken the island could see the end of dairy farming.
Dairy farming has a unique place in Guernsey’s identity and culture, our famous Guernsey breed is iconic, and our beautiful countryside is what it is because of this industry. Losing it would have very far-reaching consequences.’
Guernsey Farmers’ Association president Michael Bray said that the knock-on effect of the pandemic has also impacted on farmers, who did not ask for financial support during the lockdowns.
Feed and fertiliser prices increased slightly last year, but the war in Ukraine impacted on fuel supplies which in turn impacted on fertiliser production, that has led to even higher rises.
While the headline RPIX inflation figure released last week showed that it had risen 7% in the last quarter, ‘agri-inflation’ has gone up to about 38% due to the increase in the prices of feed and fertiliser. The long spell of dry weather has seen farmers starting to use winter feed reserves much earlier in the season. Many of the island’s 12 farms are on the verge of having to close down, said the two committees.
Even though the industry has taken steps to mitigate the problems, such as importing feed as a group, some farms are operating at a significant deficit.
The farms are responsible for maintaining 1,260 hectares of the island’s agricultural land and the loss of the industry would have long-lasting repercussions that go beyond that of the farms and their employees.
To keep the industry going the committees have agreed to provide £486,000 from the budget reserve. Attention is now turning to the future.
‘We must look at how we make the dairy farming sector as sustainable as possible, balancing farmers’ costs with keeping the price of our milk, which is a much-loved high-quality product as well as a household staple, at least reasonably affordable for islanders,’ said Deputy Ferbrache.
A review will be carried out into how the sector’s long-term sustainability can be secured.
‘But the situation right now has quickly become very urgent as international developments have sent farmers’ costs soaring.
‘They’re on the brink right now.’