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Farming

Crash out Brexit would hit livestock farming

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The NFU Cymru Red Meat Summit saw experts from the red meat supply chain, Welsh farming industry and the processing, marketing, retail and food service sectors analysing the opportunities that exist to promote Welsh produce to the wider world, as well as the potential challenges posed by Brexit.

Mr Evans said: “In Wales, we have a fantastic red meat industry with some of the most committed, dedicated and professional farmers in the world producing safe, quality affordable food for the consumer at home and abroad. But we cannot ignore the perilous position the ongoing political uncertainty leaves us in just a few short weeks away from our scheduled departure from the EU.

“In these next few weeks my family, like many thousands of others across Wales, will be preparing for and entering the busiest time in our farming calendar, with the arrival of lambs whose eventual sale would usually make up a sizeable part of our farm income. But as we spend our days and nights in the lambing shed and out in the fields, we do this in the dark not knowing what markets will be open for these lambs later this year.

“We are very late on in the Article 50 process. Last week, a majority of MPs voted to send the Prime Minister back to Brussels to attempt to renegotiate her Brexit deal and seek binding changes. The language coming out of Europe has made it pretty clear that they are not prepared to renegotiate what was agreed at the end of last year and I am concerned that we will end up wasting more time at what is an absolutely critical stage.

“My real fear is that we will see the clock run down and we will depart the EU without having secured a trade deal. For NFU Cymru a ‘No deal’ scenario is completely unacceptable. Under such a scenario we would see very significant WTO tariff rates applied to our exports, immediately pricing us out of our nearest and most valuable export market. In addition, as a third country, we would face significant regulatory barriers when exporting to the EU, further eroding our competitive position.

“These concerns are coupled with Government continuing to veer away from any form of commitment to protect our high standards within the UK Agriculture Bill. Welsh farmers hold very real fears that those in Westminster whose desire is to secure a quick trade deal will do so at the expense of Welsh agriculture by opening our markets to produce that falls well short of the high welfare, food safety and environmental standards exercised here in Wales.

“Our industry produces over 65,000 tons of sheep meat and around 48,000 tons of beef, much of which commands PGI status, and delivers an annual turnover of £1.3 billion. A scenario that puts the future of this great and iconic Welsh industry in jeopardy must not be realised.

“NFU Cymru calls on all our politicians to come together for the good of the country and secure continued, uninterrupted free and frictionless access to our closest and largest export market. Failure to deliver this will have devastating consequences for the fabric and beating heart of rural Wales.”

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Farming

WG trains vets to prepare for Brexit

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WELSH GOVERNMENT funding is helping our food and farming sector to prepare for Brexit by supporting the training of veterinary surgeons required for them to certify produce of animal origin exported from Wales to the EU, in the event of a “no deal Brexit”.

If the UK crashes out of the European Union without a deal Export Health Certificates (EHC) will be required to export produce of animal origin from Wales to the EU.

This will result in a significant increase in the need for EHC certification capability and capacity in Wales.

£96,000 from the £50 million EU Transition fund was announced last September to support the need for Export Health Certification and is an example of how the Welsh Government is helping the sector prepare for Brexit.

Veterinary surgeons certifying EHCs must receive specific training and authorisation. Usually, the training is paid for by the veterinarian undertaking the course, which represents a disincentive to participate.

For this reason, a scheme to support the additional training required for a minimum of 80 Veterinary surgeons from across Wales was launched on January 22, with more than expected to sign-up before training ends at the end of February.

The scheme is being administered by the Animal and Plant Health Agency on behalf of the Welsh Government and in collaboration with Veterinary Delivery Partners Iechyd Da and Menter a Busnes.

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “I am pleased we have been able to support the veterinary sector through our EU Transition Fund. Veterinary surgeons have already begun receiving extra training to provide Export Health Certificates and this funding is helping to address the significant risk to the export of animal produce from Wales, post-Brexit.

“This is yet another example of how, we as a Government, are supporting our industries prepare for Brexit and the challenges ahead.

“It is possible– if a no deal is taken off the table this extra capacity will not be required but we must prepare for all eventualities. However, the training would not have been wasted as the skills are transferable and would strengthen the important certification role of the veterinary profession in Wales.”

Veterinary surgeon and representative of Iechyd Da, Ifan Lloyd said: “This Welsh Government support package offers practising vets in Wales the opportunity to undertake additional training to obtain the necessary qualifications to carry out animal product export certification.

“This is a key initiative to ensure the veterinary profession in Wales is in a state of preparedness in the event of a no deal Brexit and that exporters have easy access to qualified vets to undertake their certification requirements.”

Lesley Griffiths added: “We have always been clear a no deal Brexit is not an option for Wales’ food industry. Crashing out of the European Union could decimate economies and must be avoided at all costs. Our preference would be a ‘softer’ Brexit – one that allows us to stay in a customs union and a single market.

“With no new ideas and red lines firmly still in place, the UK Government is simply running down the clock in a vain hope that their deal will pass. They must take decisive action now and act on the majority will of Parliament to rule out no deal.”

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Farming

Agri-food robotics centre launched

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A NEW advanced training centre in agri-food robotics will create the largest ever cohort of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) specialists for the global food and farming sectors, thanks to a multi-million-pound funding award.

The world’s first Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) for agri-food robotics is being established by the University of Lincoln, UK, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded £6.6m for the new Centre which will see a massive influx of high-level robotics expertise at a vital time for the agri-food industry. The CDT will provide funding and training for at least 50 doctoral students, who will be supported by major industry partners and specialise in areas such as autonomous mobility in challenging environments, the harvesting of agricultural crops, soft robotics for handling delicate food products, and ‘co-bots’ for maintaining safe human-robot collaboration and interaction in farms and factories.

Professor Tom Duckett, Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at Lincoln, is the new Centre Director. He said: “Automation and robotics technologies are set to transform global industries – within the UK alone they will add £183bn to the economy over the next decade.

“Agri-food is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK – twice the scale of automotive and aerospace combined – supporting a food chain, from farm to fork, which generates a Global Value Added (GVA) of £108bn, with 3.9m employees in a truly international industry.

“However, the global food chain is under pressure from population growth, climate change, political pressures affecting migration, population drift from rural to urban regions, and the demographics of an ageing population in advanced economies.

“Addressing these challenges requires a new generation of highly skilled RAS researchers and leaders, and our new CDT will be dedicated to delivering that expertise. It will be a real focal point for robotics innovation in the UK.”

At Lincoln, the CDT represents an important partnership between robotics researchers from the Lincoln Centre for Autonomous Systems (L-CAS) and agricultural experts from the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology (LIAT), as they work together to combat these pressing issues facing the global food chain.

Director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology, Professor Simon Pearson, said: “It is widely agreed that robotics will transform the food and farming industries in the coming years, but there is still a major skills gap in this area. Working with our industry and academic partners to design the 50 PhD scholarships will enable us to expand the UK’s science and engineering base, delivering a flood of skills and expertise that will drive our food and farming industries into the future.”

Professor Richard Harvey, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at UEA, added: “Agriculture remains an important and atavistic activity in the UK but it the most dangerous of all the main UK industry sectors. Given that, isn’t it astonishing that so much effort is devoted to robots for driving and delivering parcels to your door?

“This project will initiate a new movement to build robots to handle the unpleasant, difficult and repetitive aspects of farming. At UEA our expertise is in Computer Vision which is making computers that see. We’d like to build robots that can see when an ear of corn has ripened or be able to measure the amount of sunlight falling on a field of wheat or to tell when beans are ready for picking. We look forward to developing new systems that handle the challenge of being on a farm.”

The Centre brings together a unique collaboration of leading researchers from the Universities of Lincoln, Cambridge and East Anglia, together with the Manufacturing Technology Centre, supported by leading industrial partners and stakeholders from across the food, farming and robotics industries. These include John Deere, Syngenta, G’s Growers, Beeswax Dyson, ABB and the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board.

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Farming

OSR yields hit

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KLEFFMANN GROUP, a leading global market research organisation who conducts farmer surveys and panels throughout the world, has identified from its GB Winter Oilseed rape panel this year, that there has been a significant loss of this year’s planted area, with large regional differences being observed.

The group panel consists of 403 UK rape growers and calculates an original planted area in autumn 2018 of 581,030 hectares of winter rape. (The AHDB early bird survey is consistent with this figure at 582,000 hectares) However, 68 farmers have reported failed crops amounting to 6.28% of the total original planted area. This is 36,000 hectares lost. In the 2017/18 season, the percentage loss was just 1.62% so autumn 2018 has been much more hostile to rape survival by a factor of nearly 4 times.

The farmer survey has identified different proportions of hybrid and conventional variety adoption over a number of years. For the first time in many recent years, it appears that there is nearly a 50:50 proportion between hybrids and conventional rape varieties being sown on farm (285, 000 hectares of conventional varieties and 294,000 of hybrid varieties).

The survey shows a clear difference in failed crops by breeding method. In conventional varieties the area lost was 7.52% (21,400ha) of the area planted and of the restored hybrid varieties 5.16% of the crop planted (15,170ha) were lost.

Significant regional differences were also noted; Scotland, for example, had the lowest area of oilseed rape lost at just 0.91% of the original planted area, closely followed by the North East Region at 1.36%. The South East Region had the highest area of failed crop at 12.60%, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber Region at 9.75%. Between these extremes are the remaining regions; East Midlands suffered 3.5% loss, South West 4.34%, West Midlands (5.34%) and Eastern (7.29%).

Losses in cropping area have risen in comparison to the year 2018, where the crop failure amounted to just 1.62% of the original planted crop. Reasons for the crop losses are varied and include cabbage stem flea beetle damage (Neonicotinoids seed treatments are no longer permitted now and pyrethroid resistance in CSFB adults developing), poor establishment and in some regions, a lack of moisture has hindered germination.

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