Lamb trade absolute priority

by Glyn Roberts, FUW president

Summer has been and gone, we enjoyed a successful show season and we now start preparing for the autumn. September kicked off with the ever more popular ‘Love Lamb Week’ and the FuW once again supported the notion, which aims to encourage consumers to get cooking with home-bred British and of course Welsh Lamb.

Our team from Glamorgan also joined Hybu Cig Cymru – meat Promotion Wales (HCC) at their supermarket tour in Cardiff, where county chairman richard Walker and FuW presidential policy team delegate for South Wales Ian rickman met with customers and helped in the promotion of Welsh lamb.

We have said it many times before – our lamb is of the finest quality and those who have tasted it will agree that it stands out as a premium product. However, producing a premium product is of no use if we have no market to sell it to.

With this in mind, we must realise that one of the most complex issues we face in light of our exit from the european union are the trade negotiations.

But why does that really matter to you and me? Well, let’s look at for example the 2014 import and export figures for the lamb/sheepmeat sector. If we don’t have an export market, then we will have too much lamb for our own market – even if all imports were banned.

What we must remember is that 40 per cent of uK sheepmeat is exported. It is also a seasonal product and the uK relies on the fact that it can export cuts of meat that are less popular with our consumers, which balances our carcass sales out.

So, if we lost access to that market, Welsh agriculture could be looking at some serious problems. It is after all responsible for more than 20 per cent of the uK production.

In addition, only recently the FAPrI report highlighted that if we are faced with a ‘hard-Brexit’, meaning that the uK fails to achieve a trade agreement with the eu and defaulting to World Trade Organisation tariffs and quotas for all trade, we could see a 30 per cent fall in prices and a 20 per cent fall in Welsh production on the sheep sector.

That would mean the destruction of our sheep industry, disintegration of our rural communities and the end for our rural economy.

The consequences of a bad outcome for Wales would be severe; while there are nearly 60,000 people working full and part time in farming, farms are just a link – albeit a crucial one – in a complex supply chain, involving upstream businesses such as vets, feed merchants, mechanics and contractors, as well as downstream businesses such as hauliers, markets and food businesses.

So, as we head towards the end of the year, with our exit from the eu imminent and very little progress made in negotiations, the FuW continues to remind those in charge that #Farmingmatters and that the survival of our rural economies depends on the success of those trade negotiations, which must be an absolute priority if we are to continue producing Welsh lamb as a premium product.

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