Shetland MSP, Tavish Scott, asked Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment, yesterday to use some of the €500 million package which was unveiled on Tuesday by the EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner, Phil Hogan, to support farmers and crofters in Shetland.
This year’s unprecedented cold and wet weather has forced Shetland farmers and crofters to import more fodder than usual, the freight costs which this entails have added to their difficulties. Tavish Scott also informed Richard Lochhead that the first store lamb prices in Shetland, have been £5 a head below last year’s average prices.
Tavish Scott commented:
‘‘The first six months of 2015 have seen the worst weather in living memory for crofters and farmers. Almost every month out of the past eight has shown higher than average rainfall in Shetland, as is shown by Met Office statistics. This has been exacerbated by unseasonal cold conditions in the spring and summer months. There has never been a time previously when it has been necessary for cattle to have been housed until well into July, but that has been the case on a number of holdings across Shetland.’’
‘‘Orkney farmers have benefited from a reduction in freight costs through Serco Northlink and I would therefore request that the government now extend this sensible assistance to Shetland. I have discussed this with the NFU Shetland branch and individual farmers and crofters. It would be appreciated if the Scottish Government and Serco Northlink Ferries would enter into dialogue with the crofting and farming community in Shetland to identify what can be done to assist in reducing freight costs.’’
‘‘I would again reiterate my call for the Scottish Government to ensure that our Island farmers and crofters receive a fair share of any EU package at this challenging time.’’