UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a GBP5m (US$7.7m) funding programme aimed at helping improve dairy farmers’ competitiveness.

Cameron used Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday (11 July) to unveil the funding, which is being provided under the government’s Rural Economy Grant scheme.

The Government’s Department for Environment & Rural Affairs (Defra) is expected to listen to bids in the autumn.

“We are looking for high-quality bids from the dairy industry to help unlock growth through game-changing investments,” a Defra statement said.

Defra did not give any further details of what type of bids they will be looking for, but said: “The dairy grant funding is to help producers to increase their competitiveness and added value. The details regarding what it is available for support, intervention rates etc are not yet available, but will need to meet current RDPE (Rural Development Programme for England) funding requirements. We can take contact details of interested enquirers and will e-mail details out as they become available, which will be published on the RDPE Network website.”

The announcement came on the same day as dairy farmers from across the UK gathered for a summit in London, calling on processors to reverse a reduction in farmgate milk prices.

In May and June, the country’s largest dairy processors – Dairy Crest, Robert Wiseman Dairies and Arla Foods – cut the base price they pay farmers by two pence per litre. Then, earlier this month the three companies announced another round of cuts, which look set to take the price farmers are paid for milk down by a further 1.65-2ppl.