Welsh farmers must call on all their mutual strengths if they are to protect their historic family farm network and their unrivalled sustainable production system from unprecedented economic and competitive challenges, the Chair of Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales told delegates to the red meat body’s conference today.
“No one here today underestimates the challenges facing our family farms; we have global and domestic inflation impacts; post-pandemic economic recovery issues; a European war and Brexit transition obstacles, which have exposed fragilities in global supply chains,” Catherine Smith told the conference audience at the Royal Welsh Showground, Llanelwedd.
“For our consumers, it means a squeeze on budgets and disposable income that has not been experienced for many a year. On farm, it means rising costs of feed, fuel, and fertiliser and, for our supply chain, it means escalating costs, labour shortages and uncertainty.
“But we have a very solid platform on which to take on these challenges- if it’s high-quality, sustainable red meat you are looking for- then look to Wales.”
Catherine Smith said Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef were the products of a carefully curated, thriving natural environment with high animal welfare standards and world-leading traceability.
“We have very much to be proud of in Wales: together we have created brands that are known across the world and which our competitors envy; we have championed The Welsh Way of sustainable farming. Together we have campaigned for a vibrant future for our farming families, our rural communities, our culture and our language.”
She said now is the time to be clearly sighted of where we need to go next and prevent the loss of the great momentum that had been built over the past two decades. “If we stand still, we will be blown back by the fiercest of international trade winds. We cannot open the commercial door for competitors and importers of cheaper products, produced to inferior standards, to take our place.”
She pointed out that the high-profile Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef brands were now in front of consumers across the UK and that HCC’s vital export work has continued apace. “The value of Welsh food and drink exports hit a record high in 2021, and of course, Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef led the way. We have already seen a 22% increase of exports of Welsh Lamb to Europe compared to last year and an incredible 227% increase in exports to new markets.
“In October, we were delighted to announce that the first shipment of Welsh Lamb made its way over to America in over 20 years. And with the World Cup just around the corner, HCC will be making the most of having the world’s eyes on Wales.”
Catherine Smith said Welsh farmers needed to ensure they were fit for the future and had the resources to keep shouting about Welsh farmers’ successes and so HCC was proposing a new mechanism be introduced to allow annual levy rates to track inflation.
“Next year, for instance, this would mean an estimated additional 6p on the producer levy for lamb but it will give us all future certainty. European funding comes to an end next year. That loss will strip away the money from initiatives such as the Red Meat Development Programme which have significantly augmented HCCs funding in recent years. These are projects that help to reinforce the credentials of the production system and helps us to keep prices up at home with our export work and domestic retailer work.
“I know any rises from any direction now are hard to take- but doing it this way will avoid any
one-off, severe increases in rates and at the same time future proof the tremendous work carried out around the promotion, development and marketing of our supply chain in Wales,” she said.