CHALLENGES and problems that farmers in the UK face are not so different to those faced by farmers in Malawi, a delegation of Farmers’ Union of Wales officials has heard.
Visiting a Welsh organic arable and dairy farm – Allan Saidi a sugar farmer from Malawi – told FUW president Emyr Jones that the challenges of trying to achieve a fair price for their produce in order to provide a brighter future for their children are just the same in Africa as they are here in Wales.
The delegation was joined by the deputy minister for farming and food, Rebecca Evans AM, as they explored FUW Ceredigion county chairman Aled Rees’s150-acre organic dairy farm at Trefere Fawr, Penparc, Cardigan.
Following the visit the deputy minister for farming and food, Rebecca Evans AM said: “It was a pleasure to meet Allan last week and hear about how Fairtrade is transforming lives and helping people out of poverty in Malawi. Becoming the first Fair Trade Nation was a huge moment for Wales. It showed the world that we are an outward-looking, compassionate country which cares about ensuring farmers and food producers receive a fair deal wherever they are.”
“It was an absolute pleasure to show Allan around the farm and hear about the challenges a farmer on the other side of the world faces. It has become quite clear that even though we tend land many miles apart we worry about very similar things –floods, prices, cost of production and how to improve the lives of our families on a day-to-day basis,” said Mr Rees.
“It is easy to forget how fortunate we are living in the western world and take things like running water, safety, health care and education for our children for granted. What Allan and his fellow sugarcane farmers have achieved over the years can only be admired and must be supported in whatever way we can.
“Achieving a fair price for our produce plays a major role in this. Of course we have to take responsibility for running efficient businesses and producing a quality product but if we don’t get paid fairly for our efforts we cannot expand and further invest in the industry,” added Mr Rees.
Speaking after the visit, FUW president Emyr Jones added: “As much as the union and every farmer in the UK want a fair price for dairy, meat and arable produce in the market place we also want to see farmers like Allan get a fair price for his products. The two principles should have equal priority worldwide.”
Mr Saidi, 27, who has been farming sugarcane for over ten years, is also secretary of the Fairtrade Premium Committee – the elected committee which manages projects chosen by Kasinthula Cane Growers’ Association (KCGA) members. The members decide what community projects should benefit from the Fairtrade Premium received, with funds being invested in services such as communally owned agricultural machinery, school buildings and a community leisure centre.
“Malawi’s sugar sector is vital for the country’s economy – in 2013 sugar exports were worth $114m, making it the second most important export commodity after tobacco. Sugar is grown as a mono-crop and is generally the main source of income for smallholder producers, who also grow food crops and keep livestock. Agriculture provides a livelihood for over 85 percent of the population, of which around 90 percent are smallholders,” said Mr Saidi.
“KCG is a smallholder sugar cane project located in an inhospitable region of southern Malawi. Long droughts occasionally result in famine, and the twice-yearly rains often bring floods – in January 2015 many farmers were affected by Malawi’s worst floods for fifty years that killed several hundred people, displaced thousands more and caused extensive damage to crops, livestock and infrastructure.
“Literacy levels are low and poverty is widespread in the region. Most people live in basic mud huts with thatched roofs and few can afford to keep livestock. Families make a living growing maize, cassava or rice, while others earn cash from sugar cane or cotton, or by labouring on nearby sugar plantations. Other challenges faced by farming communities include high input costs, poor rural infrastructure, inadequate health facilities, and a lack of agricultural extension services and appropriate technology,” added Mr Saidi.
FUW policy officer Helen Ovens, who has previously worked with farmers in Uganda, said: “I have seen first-hand the benefits of growing a cash crop -even on a very small scale-alongside crops grown to feed the family.
“Sugarcane is a high value crop, bringing in much needed income into deprived rural communities, and helps to pay for essential services. Allan and his fellow farmers produce a particularly high value product – that being organic, fair trade sugar.The quality of this product, and the real tangible benefits to his community that arise from us purchasing products with a Fair Trade logo should not be underestimated.”
“Farmers across the world need to receive a realistic financial return for their products, whether that be sugarcane from a small farm in southern Malawi, or milk from a dairy farm in west Wales. It has been a pleasure to see Aled and Allan exchange farming experiences, increasing each other’s understanding of their own farming circumstances,” added Helen.
Search is on for Welsh Livestock Champion
NFU CYMRU and NFU Mutual are again looking to find the best livestock person working within the agricultural industry in Wales.
Now in its sixth year, the Welsh Livestock Champion of the Year Award seeks to champion dedicated, committed and enthusiastic livestock persons from all across Wales. The award winner will receive a top prize of £500 and a Welsh Royal Crystal Trophy.
Wyn Evans, Chairman of NFU Cymru’s Livestock Board, who will judge on behalf of NFU Cymru, said: “Here in Wales we have some of the best quality beef and sheep in the world, produced to the highest animal health and welfare standards. This award aims to celebrate excellence amongst Welsh livestock producers.
“We want to recognise the key role an exceptional livestock person can make to a livestock farm and the Welsh livestock industry as a whole. Potential winners will be judged on their management of the flock/herd, their animal health planning, breeding programme, their stock handling skills, how they incorporate health and safety into their day-to-day activities on-farm and their vision for the future of the industry.”
Mike Thomas, Builth Wells Group Secretary who will be judging the award on behalf of NFU Mutual, said: “The quality of the stockmanship is a major factor in determining the success of any livestock business. We have some superb stock people in the industry here in Wales and I am confident that this will be a keenly contested competition once again this year and one which NFU Mutual is pleased to support as the leading rural insurer in Wales.”
The closing date for entries is Monday, November 11, and the winner will be announced at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, at Llanelwedd, Builth Wells on Monday, November 25.
HCC works to open the Chinese market
A DELEGATION of government officials from the People’s Republic of China has visited Britain this week as part of an ongoing process to lift years-old restrictions on exports of UK sheepmeat to mainland China.
Organised by the UK Export Certification Partnership, of which Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is a member alongside other levy boards, industry bodies and Government, the visit brought officials from the Chinese General Administrations of Customs (GACC) to the UK to learn more about disease control measures for sheepmeat.
As well as visiting farms and processing facilities, the delegation heard from vets and other experts.
HCC Export Development Executive Deanna Jones said that the visit was another important step, following the announcement earlier this year of the signing of a protocol agreement on beef, which could lead to the Chinese market opening to PGI Welsh Beef in 2020.
“The Chinese market is, of course, the most populous in the world,” said Deanna. “If we were able to lift the historic restrictions on exports to the People’s Republic, it could be a major boost to lamb and beef farmers in Wales.
“In the summer, we made very good progress on beef following the GACC inspection and the visit of the high-level Chinese delegation with Welsh Government to farms in Wales,” added Deanna. “But we’ve always been clear that being able to export PGI Welsh Lamb is hugely important. We’re therefore pleased to see progress in this area too, although it’s too soon to say when sheepmeat exports might begin.”
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “The red meat sector is of huge importance to Welsh agriculture and the economy. As we prepare to leave the European Union, lifting restrictions could provide a great opportunity for our producers to explore new overseas markets and get a foothold in the Chinese market for our iconic PGI Welsh Lamb.”
The visit was financed from the £2 million funds of AHDB red meat levies ring-fenced for collaborative projects which is managed by Britain’s three meat levy bodies: AHDB, HCC and QMS.
The fund is an interim arrangement while a long-term solution is sought on the issue of levies being collected at the point of slaughter in England for animals which have been reared in Scotland and Wales.
Farming faces zero carbon challenge
AN AMBITIOUS new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 will lead to significant changes in farming practices over the coming decades, according to a leading agri-environment specialist.
Professor Iain Donnison, Head of the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, was responding to the publication of ‘Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’ published by the UK Government Committee on Climate Change.
Professor Donnison is an expert on agriculture and land use, which feature in the report in terms of targets for one-fifth of agricultural land to be used for forestry, bioenergy crops and peatland restoration.
According to Professor Donnison, such a reduction is very ambitious but achievable in Wales and the wider UK. “Land use can positively contribute towards achieving the net zero targets, but there are challenges in relation to emissions from agriculture especially associated with red meat and dairy,” said Professor Donnison.
“In IBERS we are already working on how to make livestock agriculture less carbon intensive and developing new diversification options for the farming of carbon. For example, net zero targets could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”
Professor Donnison added: “The report gives a clear message regarding the importance of the task and the role that the UK can play to compensate for past emissions and to help play a leadership role in creating a greener future.
“The report says it seeks to be based on current technologies that can be deployed and achievable targets. One-fifth of agricultural land is a very ambitious target but I believe that through the approaches proposed it is achievable (e.g. for bioenergy crops it fits in with published targets for the UK). This is based on the knowledge and technologies we have now regarding how to do this, and because right now in the UK we are developing a new agricultural policy that looks beyond the common agriculture policy (CAP). For example, the 25-year Environment plan published by Defra envisages payment for public goods which could provide a policy mechanism to help ensure that the appropriate approaches are implemented in the appropriate places.
“The scale of the change, however, should not be underestimated, although agriculture is a sector that has previously successfully responded to challenges such as for increased food production. The additional challenge will be to ensure that we deliver all the benefits we wish to see from land: food, carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) management and wider environmental benefits, whilst managing the challenge of the impacts of climate change.
“The link is made between healthy diets with less red meat consumption and future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. This reflects that agriculture will likely go through significant change over the coming decades as a result of changes in consumer diets.
“Net Zero targets, however, could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”
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