LATEST figures show that while the retail price of lamb for consumers is lower in the spring of 2015, compared to the spring of 2014, it has not fallen anywhere near as much as the farmer’s share of that retail price which has dropped from 60 per cent to 50 per cent over the past year.
Speaking following a meeting of the NFU Cymru Livestock Board, Lyndon Edwards, said: “Lower retail prices would help bolster demand for lamb, but consumers aren’t seeing as much of a drop in price as farmers are, which begs the question – who is profiting from lamb? Our farm-gate price of lamb is reaching critically low levels. Whilst we recognise that trading conditions are tough, as the strength of sterling and the Eurozone crisis impacts negatively on our export markets, we are called to see that whilst the price we are receiving for our lambs has slumped that this price crash is not being reflected in the price on the shelves. Farmers need a sustainable price for their product that encourages them to invest in future production, returns must be delivered to everyone throughout the supply chain so that the consumer can continue to enjoy and savour PGI Welsh lamb in years to come. We know the challenges we all face in boosting lamb consumption here in the UK but I am confident that this can be achieved by giving in season PGI Welsh lamb pride of place on retail shelves and promoting our fantastic product this summer.”
Mr Edwards ended: “Members of our livestock board have been carrying out our own store watch in recent days visiting retail stores across Wales to find out who is showing commitment to Welsh lamb. Whilst there are retailers out there who are very supportive of Welsh lamb we have to say how appalled we are that in the first week of July we continue to see so much importedproductstillavailableonretail shelves in many stores. Individually we have complained to local store managers and as a Union we are using every available opportunity to raise our concerns with the agricultural teams and directors and we will continue to do so in the coming weeks.”
The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has warned that the fall in lamb prices, drastically reduced farm incomes and frustrations over the volume of imported lamb on supermarket shelves means farmer anger is reaching boiling point.
“Lamb prices have fallen drastically over recent weeks, with prices down by around 20 percent compared with the same period last year,” said FUW livestock, wool and marts committee chairman Dafydd Roberts. “Such falls come against a background of predicted falls in net hill and lowland livestock farm incomes of 41 and 24%.”
Mr Roberts said the volumes of imported lamb, which continue to appear on supermarket shelves, added insult to injury for farmers who had seen a fall in live-weight new season lamb prices of around 35p/Kg during June.
“The FUW has highlighted the need for an increase in farm-gate prices for all commodities during meetings with supermarkets over recent months, and the current plight of the industry was reiterated in a meeting with deputy minister Rebecca Evans last week. We will continue to draw attention to the need for fair farm-gate returns in meetings with bodies involved in the supply chain during the Royal Welsh show,” he added.
Mr Roberts said that while there was an ongoingfocusonfarmers cutting costs and become more efficient, there was widespread feeling that those further down the supply chain were not meeting their side of the bargain by showing the type of commitment to Welsh produce promised during the horsemeat scandal.
“As people struggle to pay bills and face up to the prospect of further falls in CAP support, tempers are beginning to fray and action needs to be taken to restore confidence,” he added.
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Agriculture Minister, Llyr Gruffydd AM, has called on the Welsh Government to take urgent steps to protect Welsh farmers as price of Welsh produce continues to plummet.
Lamb prices have dropped by around 20 per cent compared with the same period last year as total farm income continues to plummet. The price of liveweight new season lamb fell by around 35p/Kg in June 2015.
The news comes just a few days after milk buyer, First Milk announced a further 1ppl cut to its standard litre price, meaning the majority of Welsh dairy farmers will be receiving milk prices far below the cost of production.
The Party of Wales’ Shadow Agriculture Minister, Llyr Gruffydd AM, said: “Supporting our farmers is a matter of increasing urgency and it is imperative that the Welsh Government steps in which is why Plaid Cymru will be holding a debate next week in the Senedd which will call on the government to utilise the Rural Development Programme to provide immediate support for those most affected and to protect farmers from the volatility of the global markets by strengthening domestic supply chains.
“If this isn’t a message to supermarkets, I don’t know what is. They have a duty of care to their suppliers and they need to recognise that the sector is struggling. We need leadership from the Welsh Government to ensure that supermarkets step in and support their suppliers. When the boot was on the other foot during the horsemeat scandal the suppliers stood by the supermarkets – it is now incumbent on the supermarkets to show the same loyalty.
“The public sector also needs to set an example and ensure as much of its produce is sourced from within Wales as possible and we needn’t look very far to see what needs to be done. Gwynedd council has led by example, sourcing 100 per cent of its school meals contracts from within Gwynedd or the surrounding region whereas Anglesey council over the bridge spends its whole school meals budget in Reading.
“Welsh farmers have been suffering for too long with seemingly perpetual cuts to farm-gate prices coupled with the slashing of their subsidy payments by the Welsh Government. It is imperative that the Welsh Government shows leadership in turning the situation around.”
Farming Connect’s face-to-face training back on
DUE to the restrictions of Covid 19, although it’s not ‘training as usual’ as yet for Farming Connect, face-to-face training courses held exclusively outdoors can now resume immediately. This means that provided the Welsh Government’s current Covid 19 regulations are met and every individual involved stays two metres apart, face-to-face training is available.
Training can also be carried out in large, open sheds, barns or outbuildings, where the two metre distance rule and other Covid 19 regulations can be adhered to. Welsh Government has warned that its guidance is subject to change should there be a resurgence of the pandemic. It is hoped that a full resumption of Farming Connect’s indoor classroom-based training will be possible in the autumn.
Kevin Thomas, director of Lantra Wales, which together with Menter a Busnes delivers Farming Connect on behalf of the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, welcomed the announcement.
“With all Farming Connect face to face training either fully funded or subsidised by up to 80%, it is very good news for the industry that so many face-to-face courses are now available again.
“Personal, business and technical development is critical as farmers and foresters prepare for a future outside the EU and with over 80 subjects to choose from, this could be the ideal time to learn something new or expand your knowledge on a specific subject.
“New skills will also be especially beneficial for those who have had to adapt their business model due to the changed market conditions caused by the pandemic,” said Mr. Thomas, who added that all Farming Connect training completed will be added to each trainee’s online ‘Storfa Sgiliau’ professional development records.
Registered individuals who received an approval for face-to-face training but whose courses were postponed due to the pandemic lockdown, should contact their selected training provider as soon as possible to discuss their options. Those who have not already applied for funded training can do so within the next skills application window which will be open from 09:00 on Monday 7 September until 17:00 on Friday 30 October 2020.
Farming Connect’s range of subsidised digital or ‘remote’ training has steadily increased since the pandemic first surfaced, and is now available for a number of Farming Connect courses including food safety; business-related training, poultry related training and animal health and welfare topics.
Training options within Farming Connect’s fully funded ICT and animal health training programmes can all be provided remotely, either one-to-one or via for example, a ‘virtual’ group animal health workshop. In addition, Farming Connect’s range of fully funded e-learning interactive modules has recently been refreshed and expanded to deliver more topics.
For further information about Farming Connect’s skills and lifelong learning programme, either contact your local development officer or your selected training provider. Visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect for further information, a list of all training providers and the courses currently available.
Farming Connect, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra, has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
Wales can lead on net-zero farming
NFU CYMRU hosted a farm visit for the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma MP, to demonstrate that Welsh farmers are well-placed to deliver on the industry’s net zero ambitions.
The event saw NFU Cymru launch its new document, which sets out that Welsh farmers are part of the solution to climate change.
NFU Cymru President John Davies presented the report to the Secretary of State, who also holds the role of nominated President for COP26, as part of the on farm meeting.
The visit was hosted by NFU Cymru Next Generation Group member Llŷr Jones, whose 1,600-acre sheep, beef and egg farm near Corwen also produces renewable energy to satisfy the farm’s energy needs, exporting the surplus power to the grid.
As part of his visit to Derwydd Farm, Mr Sharma was also able to learn about the scale of work carried out on the farm as part of Welsh Government’s Glastir agri-environment scheme, including creating habitats for wildlife, tree planting, protecting some 30 acres of peatland, hedgerow management and soil and grassland management.
During his visit, the BEIS Secretary planted an apple tree as an example of the environmental work the agricultural sector carries out to sequester carbon, while also providing food and aiding biodiversity.
Speaking after the visit, NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “By focussing on improving farming’s productive efficiency; improving land management and enhancing land use to capture more carbon; and boosting renewable energy and the wider bio-economy, Wales’ farmers will be able to play their part in addressing the issues brought about by climate change. By reducing carbon emissions in these ways farmers are in a strong position to achieve the industry’s goal of achieving net zero by 2040.
“I am thrilled that we were able to welcome the BEIS Secretary, Alok Sharma MP, on farm today to see Llŷr Jones’ exciting and impressive farming enterprise, which has carbon capture and renewable energy at its heart. Llŷr’s farm is just one of a wide network of farms across Wales who are harnessing innovation to reduce emissions and produce climate friendly food. These businesses are net zero leaders not just in the respect of farming, but in a wider business context.”
Alok Sharma, COP26 President and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “I was very pleased to visit Llŷr Jones’ farm and see first-hand the actions being taken to mitigate climate change and support nature on their land.
“I welcome the NFU’s ambitious commitment to reach net zero by 2040, and I look forward to working across governments, business and civil society in the run up to COP26 to raise global commitments to reduce carbon emissions.”
NFU Cymru Next Generation Group member Llŷr Jones added: “I take great pride in the work we do to maintain and enhance the environment, encourage biodiversity and support the local community alongside my core role as a food producer.
“I was pleased to be able welcome the Secretary of State on farm today to show him how we’re always striving to positively influence the carbon impact of our business. I hope Mr Sharma enjoyed his visit to my north Wales hill farm and that what he has seen shows him that our industry has a vital role to play in the climate change challenge now and in the future.”
Broadband must reach rural communities
THE FUW has responded positively to news that there are plans to bring full fibre broadband to an additional three million homes and businesses in some of the UK’s most isolated rural communities, but stresses it must really reach them.
The connection to 3.2 million UK premises, which was given the go-ahead after an Ofcom consultation, is reported to be part of a £12bn investment by Openreach to build full fibre infrastructure to 20 million premises throughout the UK by the end of this decade.
Places set to benefit include Aberystwyth in west Wales, Millom in Cumbria, Thurso in north-east Scotland, and Ballycastle in County Antrim. Openreach is due to publish the full list of the 251 locations, referred to as Area 3, where it will build the new network. Ofcom has estimated there are 9.6 million homes and businesses situated in this final third of the UK.
Responding to the announcement, FUW Ceredigion county chairman Morys Ioan said: “The last few months have served as a stark example of how vital connectivity is. Our own Union staff, many of whom live in rural areas, have been working from home and we have continued to assist members with digital paperwork for their farm businesses. Without an internet connection this would not have been possible.
“It is really good news that this extra funding is being directed at rural communities but we must make sure that it really does go to those premises who currently are not benefitting from full fibre broadband.
“Our rural towns and villages have been left behind in the race for better and faster connectivity and it is critical for the competitiveness and viability of rural businesses, and the economy, that tangible improvements are made now.
“The FUW has stressed on many occasions that those without a connection cannot diversify their businesses, that they cannot support their children’s education and that they cannot connect readily with Government programmes for advice and support payments as they are mandated to do.”
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