Plaid Cymru’s shadow rural affairs minister Llyr Gruffydd has issued a last ditch plea for farm businesses to be given access to a key Welsh Government business support scheme.
The eligibility criteria for the Economic Resilience Fund is expected to be revised this week and with the vast majority of farmers unable to access any support to date Plaid Cymru has urged the Welsh Government to put that right.
With many Welsh farmers, particularly in the dairy and beef sectors, struggling to survive Llyr Gruffydd MS has urged the Government to ensure there is a focus on supporting food producers when changes are announced later this week.
Mr Gruffydd MS said: “Many businesses in Wales have found they are not eligible for the various business support packages and we need to make sure no-one is falling through the gaps in the system.
“The agricultural sector has been totally overlooked when it comes to helping struggling businesses during this terrible crisis. Despite many farm businesses facing a real fight for survival the Government has still not provided it with the support offered to most other sectors. Plaid Cymru has called for a bespoke scheme tailored to supporting agriculture but this has fallen on deaf ears at both Cardiff Bay and Westminster. In the absence of a specific scheme for the industry, making farm businesses eligible for the Economic Resilience Fund is the very least Ministers can do.
“At a time when food resilience and local production is being highlighted, it seems perverse that the Government is not focusing on providing support for that sector in such an uncertain time. Farmers need a comprehensive support package that takes into account both their strategic importance to the economy and their unique situation. Now is not the time to sideline the farming community.”
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Economy, Tackling Poverty and Transport Helen Mary Jones echoed the call, saying it was vital that the announcement expected soon by the minister ensured any excluded businesses didn’t lose out and were able to access support to enable them to come through the lockdown period
The Mid and West Member of the Senedd (MS) said: “While the existing Welsh Government support for business is welcome there are still too many not being supported. I have written to the minister to ensure we plug the gaps in the existing scheme because we must provide the necessary support right across the economy to get us through the lockdown.
“That means making sure there is better targeted support for micro-businesses, sole traders, including those working from home and for the start-up businesses that don’t yet have tax returns. There are other small businesses that are not VAT registered, the specific needs of veterinary practices and dental practices as well as tourist and childcare businesses that need addressing in any future business support.
“Ensuring we have a resilient economy coming out of the lockdown is essential for the good of both business and the workers they employ. Farming is a key component not only of our food production but also the rural economy in general and we must have a specific package of support to plug the existing gaps. I will be pressing the minister to take all these factors on board before he announces any further measures.”