ANNOUNCEMENTS by Arla and First Milk at the beginning of July that they were to cut the price paid to dairy producers by 1p/litre has resulted in a deepening sense of crisis within the Welsh dairy industry.
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, Llyr Gruffydd AM, called on the European Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan to acknowledge that there is a crisis in the Welsh dairy sector on the day that he visited the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show.
The EU Commissioner will visited the show on Monday (Jul 20), as dairy farmers in Wales continue to produce milk at a loss with no prospect of a price increase until at least next year.
Mr Hogan has been widely criticised for refusing to acknowledge the true scale of problems facing the industry. He was criticised for claiming in January that milk prices were holding up well and there was no dairy crisis, and was further challenged to make the long overdue recognition by MEPs in the European Parliament earlier this month.
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, Llyr Gruffydd AM said: “With devastating milk price cuts at farm gate level, the short-term fortunes of dairy production is pretty grim. No business can carry on producing at a loss for very long and it is time for the Commissioner to acknowledge the scale of the crisis. Producers have seen more than a third knocked off their milk price in less than 12 months and this is having huge repercussions for the rural economy.”
The AM continued: “The Royal Welsh Agricultural Show is the biggest event in our farming calendar, and if the EU Commissioner is meeting with farmers here today then he needs to be honest with them. That means acknowledging that the dairy industry is in crisis. After seeing the Tory UK government cut the overall CAP budget by 10% and then a Labour Welsh Government cutting direct subsidies to Welsh farmers by £1/4bn, plummeting farm-gate prices come at a most difficult time.”
Pointing out the role of supermarkets in driving down prices, Mr Gruffydd concluded: “Large retailers also have a key role to play. Using milk as a loss leader inevitably devalues the product and it should not be happening.”
Optimism expressed by Welsh Conservatives that the removal of milk quotas in an already difficult market would not lead to price falls for Welsh farmers has been shown to be nothing more than wishful thinking. The fears of the FUW that abandoning quotas would adversely impact smaller producers, who predominate in the Welsh dairy market, appear at this stage to have been fully borne out.
Rob Harrison, head of the NFU’s dairy board said: “450 quitting dairy farming since this time last year in England and Wales. The recent series of cuts have highlighted the need for short-term solutions to address the problems happening now – farmers need urgent help from industry and Government. We need Government to move away from paying lip service and focus on the here and now. Their long-term solutions must take a back seat while we focus on the immediate crisis; we need them to insist on best practice in the supply chain, look at growing dairy consumption and supporting more investment in dairy processing in the UK – and this needs to happen now.”
Since 2002, more than half of Britain’s dairy farmers have gone out of business, defeated by rock-bottom prices and rising costs. For the past few months, even those that have survived have been caught up in another perfect storm. Britain consumes more than four-fifths of the milk it produces, but its price is dictated globally, by the cost of producing milk in, say, New Zealand or the US.
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.”
HSE fees up 20%
A FEE imposed on farm businesses found to be in breach of health and safety legislation has gone up nearly 20% to £154/hr.
Since October 2012 the Health and Safety Executive has operated a cost recovery regime, which means that businesses are charged for the costs of an investigation from the point a material breach has been identified through to the point when a decision is made on enforcement action.
If you are found to be in material breach of health and safety law, you will have to pay for the time it takes the HSE to identify the breach and help you put things right. This includes investigating and taking enforcement action. This charging scheme is known as a Fee for Intervention (FFI).
Robert Gazely, farm consultant and health and safety specialist for Strutt & Parker said: “A material breach is something which an inspector considers serious enough that they need to formally write to the business requiring action to be taken. Once an inspector gives a farmer this written notification of contravention (NoC), the farmer will be expected to pay a fee.
“From 6 April 2019, the hourly charge has been increased from £129 to £154. The final bill will be based on the total amount of time it takes the HSE inspector to identify the breach and their work to help put things right.
“Of course, the primary reason for farms to be proactive in their approach to health and safety should be to protect themselves, their families and any employees.
“The number of people who are killed and injured each year on farms remains stubbornly high and the human cost of these incidents can be incalculable to those affected.
“But taking a safety-first approach should also help farm businesses to avoid a financial hit, as the HSE fees can mount up in the event of an investigation.”
Red meat gives ‘Taste of Wales’
WELSH Lamb and Welsh Beef were among the finest of Welsh foods at Wales’ largest and most prestigious food and drink trade event, Taste Wales last month.
The remarkable display of products, all under one roof, brought together a large contingent of UK and overseas buyers, including importers with a specific interest in Welsh red meat. These included a major foodservice and retail importer and distributor from Scandinavia that imports 6,000 million tonnes of meat annually from all over the world. The company is recognised for bringing tasty food experiences to Nordic dining tables.
They were invited to the event by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) who also arranged site visits to some of Wales’ major red meat processing plants. The main aim was to impress the importers with the industry’s high ethical and environmental standards.
The visit, led by HCC’s market representatives in Scandinavia, was a platform for many productive and promising discussions.
One representative, Anette Stenebrandt said at Taste Wales: “We have a company from Sweden and Finland with us, trying to do some new business in the Nordic-speaking countries. This is really a fantastic fair and we have enjoyed it a lot.”
Her colleague Jakob True added: “This is our first time here at this amazing event, it’s a great opportunity to meet a lot of Welsh producers, particularly Welsh Lamb which is world-class, we know. We’ll go back to Scandinavia with a lot of good new leads and hopefully bring a lot of business to Wales.”
HCC’s Market Development Manager, Rhys Llywelyn said: “Many of the buyers we met at Taste Wales, including the Scandinavians, showed a significant interest in Welsh Lamb and were impressed by the whole package – from the story of producing Welsh Lamb to the processing techniques, the taste and texture.
“Others also expressed a keen interest in forging deals with the industry, including a Japanese department store, a major buyer from Hong Kong and a representative from Qatar. This bodes well for the future, especially as Brexit uncertainty is set to continue in light of the extension on Article 50.”
In recent months, HCC has undertaken a strategic GB marketing drive to encourage growth and recognition of our quality produce on British soil.
HCC’s UK Market Development Executive, Emily Davies said: “Our presence at Taste Wales also included concentrating our efforts on promoting Welsh Lamb in the domestic market. We met a number of foodservice companies, retailers and executive chefs and discussed Welsh red meat opportunities with meal-kit companies and online retailers. We also launched a new tool-kit for retailers which highlights the ways in which we can work with them to promote Welsh Lamb and Beef.”
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