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Farming

Clear vision for the future of farming

Thomas Sinclair

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rebcca“NFU CYMRU has a vision for a productive, profitable and progressive agricultural industry in Wales. We have a favourable climate and a nation bursting at the seams with passionate, dedicated and skilled farmers,” Stephen James, NFU Cymru President, told the Wales Farming Conference.
Mr James said: “As farmers we are proud of our role, first and foremost as food producers, being the cornerstone of the £6 billion Welsh food and drink industry and custodians of a countryside that we have created, cared for and continue to manage which not only supports a diverse range of species, habitats and ecosystems but also underpins a tourism industry that is worth nearly £2 billion to the economy of Wales.”
At the Wales Farming Conference, held on the Royal Welsh Showground, the Deputy Minister, Rebecca Evans, launched the Strategic Framework for Welsh Agriculture consultation document. The framework proposals have been developed jointly between Welsh Government and the farming industry.
NFU responds to future of farming proposals
Mr James said: “NFU Cymru along with other key industry stakeholders has a clear vision as to how the newly approved Wales Rural Development Programme (RDP) can be used to enhance the viability and competitiveness of our industry. Our proposals are innovative and focussed on integrating expert advice with on-farm investment to bring about widespread uptake, giving farmers the tools to drive their business forward. Crucial to the success of this framework will be Government and industry bringing these core projects to reality.”
Mr James will tell the Deputy Minister and the audience present, during his speech: “This is a difficult period for all sectors: exchange rates, retailer behaviour and commodity markets all seem to be against us at present which is why as part of this framework specific action plans must focus on how we can get the best possible returns from the market place, and this framework must interlink with the Welsh Food and Drink Strategy. Challenging targets must be set that industry and government must put all their combined resources into achieving. We must do everything possible to add value to primary produce here in Wales ensuring that all parts of the supply chain benefit.”
Mr James concluded: “Profitability is the key to delivering a prosperous, resilient industry and to achieve this we need to ensure maximum returns from the market place at the same time as making sure that what we produce is produced as efficiently as possible.”
FUW: PARTNERSHIP WORKING ESSENTIAL
FUW president Emyr Jones told delegates that Welsh farmers are facing the most challenging and difficult period for a decade, as a severely depleted CAP budget, coupled with ongoing uncertainty over what form the Basic Payment Scheme will take, added to extreme pressures caused by a crash in farm gate returns and farm incomes.
“Put simply, farming once again finds itself in depression, and the anger out there amongst the industry is evident,” said Mr Jones.
Describing the Strategic Framework for Welsh Agriculture consultation document launched by the Deputy Minister at the conference, Mr Jones said it contained aspirations for agriculture which few could disagree with, especially given the difficulties currently facing the industry, with agricultural prosperity and profitability being at the core of the framework.
Comparing the document with previous strategies, Mr Jones told delegates that “I’m glad to say that the strategy framework proposals being launched today differ significantly, even radically, in that, if adopted, this is not some 200 page strategy document which will join the others on the shelf.”
“Thanks to the joint work of government and industry bodies, it proposes the formation of an umbrella partnership group to oversee a short and to the point list of key objectives, most notably achieving and sustaining profitability.”
However, Mr Jones warned that the ability to influence many key factors which would help achieve these objectives were limited.
“We cannot control oil prices or exchange rates, and only God can change the weather which can make or break a profitable year. But the Rural Development Programme is one key toolbox we do have at our disposal. For our industry, and in particular our most important food producers who, whatever the final decision on the Basic Payment model is will lose the most significant amounts of money, the RDP is a lifeline.”
Mr Jones reminded those present of former minister Alun Davies’ commitment to using RDP funds to invest in the future of agriculture and equip it to cope with reductions in financial support and market failure, and welcomed the Deputy Minister’s commitments to strategic initiatives aimed at the red meat and dairy industries in particular.
“I welcome the Deputy Minister’s commitments to strategic initiatives aimed at the red meat and dairy industries in particular, and would urge Welsh Government to ensure that the partnership approach which it has signed up to is adopted when it comes to putting more flesh on the bones of the RDP so we can achieve the key objectives identified in this document, most importantly the profitability and prosperity of agriculture, without which all other objectives for our rural communities and landscapes become unattainable and irrelevant.”
MINISTER LAUNCHES MAJOR CONSULTATION
Delivering a keynote speech, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans presented proposals for a new strategic framework for Welsh Agriculture.
These proposals have been developed jointly between the Welsh Government, FUW, NFU Cymru, CLA Wales and other key stakeholders.
The strategic framework sets out the challenges and threats facing the agriculture sector in Wales, but also highlights the opportunities, and importantly, the need for industry and Government to work together to secure a more prosperous and resilient future for the industry.
Taking the stage with Emyr Jones, President of the FUW, and Stephen James, President of the NFU-Cymru the Deputy Minister officially launched a 12-week consultation on the ‘Strategic Framework for Welsh Agriculture’.
She said: “Our vision is of a prosperous, sustainable industry. Successful, profitable farm businesses which have long-term futures are fundamental to success. We want an industry that is forward looking; uses best practice and works to safeguard and enhance soil, water and the natural environment – the bedrock of farm production.”
The Deputy Minister added that the Rural Development Programme, which was approved by the European Commission at the end of May, will provide financial support for many of the changes needed to farming and associated rural businesses, to help realise that vision.
She said: “With a value of over £900 million to rural Wales, much of which will be funded directly by the Welsh Government, this is the largest and most ambitious RDP we have ever proposed. The emphasis will be on ‘green growth’, supporting only those actions that are good for our rural economy, good for communities, good for the environment. For agriculture in particular, the new RDP will make significant, integrated investments in skills and knowledge, business development, fostering collaboration and improved land management. Our guiding principles are that we will achieve much more by working together and that farming must be a sustainable industry in the widest sense. The Welsh Government and its partners look forward to your response about how you want to take our industry forward.”
The deadline for responses is August 27 and the consultation is available on gov.wales

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Farming

Economic value of red meat sector rises

Thomas Sinclair

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HE VALUE of the iconic beef, lamb and pork sectors to the Welsh economy rose in 2020, as consumers turned to local, sustainable, quality food during the COVID pandemic, according to analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).New figures from the Welsh Government ‘Aggregate Agricultural Output and Income’ report show that the total value of agricultural output in Wales for 2020 is projected to stand at £1.7billion – a 6.2% (or £99 million) increase on the provisional figure for 2019.


Cattle and sheep account for 44% of this total at £750million; the highest proportion recorded since 2016. The agricultural output value for Wales’s pig sector also increased (by 34.3% or £2 million) to a value of £8 million.
The figures reflect the strength of the livestock sector in Wales and sit in contrast to Total Income From Farming (TIFF) figures for the UK as a whole newly released by Defra. Although the TIFF figures are a different form of measuring farm production, the UK data concurs that the livestock sector has had a strong year, but in other parts of Britain, this was more than offset by poor harvests in the arable sector.


Demand for beef and lamb have been strong in the domestic retail market since the immediate aftermath of the first COVID lockdown in spring 2020. After initial market volatility, marketing campaigns by HCC and other bodies encouraged consumers to recreate restaurant meals at home.


Over the past 12 months, domestic retail sales of lamb and beef have trended consistently higher, with spending on lamb 20% higher than the previous year. Sales at independent high street butchers are also strong.
Research shows many demographic groups, including families with children, buying more beef and lamb than previously, and turning to quality home-grown produce.


HCC Data Analyst Glesni Phillips said, “The strong demand for red meat from the domestic consumer has helped drive market prices for beef and lamb at Welsh livestock markets in the second half of 2020 and into the early months of 2021.


“It’s no surprise, therefore, to see that the overall value of the industry is projected to have grown. We have seen inflation in the costs on farmers, which offset some of the gains from improved market price; however, it’s heartening to see consumers’ support for quality Welsh produce.“Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef remain key drivers of our rural economy, and given their excellent brand reputation, they act as flagship products for the growing Welsh food and drink sector.”Further analysis of the aggregate output and income figures for Welsh farms are available in HCC’s latest monthly market bulletin.

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Farming

Ian Rickman: 2021 is a critical year for Wales’ farming future

Thomas Sinclair

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THE INCREASINGLY negative narrative around livestock farming and its portrayed impact on the environment and climate change has led to farmers in Wales standing up to tell their stories and highlight the positive impact livestock farming has.


Through the Farmers’ Union of Wales’ campaign ‘Guardians of the Welsh Land’, farmers are addressing misleading claims by various groups about the role livestock farming plays in relation to climate change and the environment.  Launching the campaign, FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “The FUW has consistently recognised the threat represented by climate change and the need to take action. This is clear from a cursory look at our manifestos and policy documents published over the past twenty years.

“We know that farming is already responsible for a critical carbon resource in soils, woodland and semi-natural habitats and I’m pleased to launch the FUW’s environment campaign – ‘Guardians of the Welsh Land’ from my home farm here in Carmarthenshire today. As farmers are the most trusted link in the supply chain, they are best placed to communicate their stories, helping to address consumer concerns and influencing political agendas. Members can also look forward to a variety of webinars over the coming months, which will focus on the different challenges ahead for the industry and how to overcome them.


“There is no question in our mind that we need to counteract the continuation by the anti-farming lobby of their campaign to vilify and belittle domestic food producers.  These attacks are corrosive and grossly misleading, negatively influencing consumer perception of the industry and influencing political agendas on a global scale.”


Mr Rickman added that 2021 is an important year for these types of conversations.


“Knocking on our door are the United Nations Food Systems Summit and COP26. The FUW has been engaging with these conversations at an international level and shares some concerns with other industries across the globe about the wider narrative and ambitions set out in inconspicuous looking documents. Plans, we and the general public don’t support.  Telling the positive story of the guardians of our Welsh land is now more important than ever,” he said.


Starting in the first week of June, the campaign introduces four farmers all of whom tell the story of how they are addressing environmental and climate change needs in their unique ways: Carmarthenshire organic sheep farmer Phil Jones, the Roberts family from Meirionnydd, Ceredigion dairy farmers Lyn and Lowri Thomas and FUW President Glyn Roberts who farms with his daughter Beca at Dylasau Uchaf in Snowdonia.


“The campaign will further highlight that Welsh farmers are rising to the challenge of improving soil health and increasing organic matter in soils, improvements which represent further opportunities for sequestering more carbon. These improvements, the campaign will highlight, are achieved through specific livestock grazing patterns and rest periods. The campaign is also clear that the correct options, guidance and rewards are required to encourage more farmers to adopt such systems,” said Mr Rickman.


Soil, the campaign will stress, is a long term investment and at present, around 410 million tonnes of carbon is stored in Welsh soils and 75,700 hectares of Wales’ woodland (25%) is on farmland, representing an important and growing carbon sink.


“As acknowledged in Natural Resources Wales’ State of Natural Resources Report, using land for food production is an essential part of natural resource use and management.  Whilst we acknowledge that  agricultural intensification has undeniably had negative impacts on some species and ecosystems, there is overwhelming evidence that other factors, including reductions in agricultural activity and afforestation, have also had severe negative impacts,” he added.

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Farming

Excellent Easter for lamb sales

Jon Coles

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Lamb proved a popular choice for consumers over Easter with retail sales soaring above the last two years. This demand has been reflected at livestock markets where farmgate prices are still standing strong.

At a time when lamb is always a firm favourite, this year people of all ages were both buying and spending more as a result of a renewed interest in sourcing quality, local produce and cooking at home.

In the 12 weeks to 18 April 2021, the total volume purchased was up 14.8% on the year, and 6.0% higher than in 2019. Consumer spend on lamb reached £190.0 million, which was 18.7% more than in 2020 and 14.6% higher than the same period in 2019.  

Lamb leg roasting joints were the most sought-after cuts despite the fact that Covid-19 restrictions on large gatherings remained, followed by chops and mince.

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales’ (HCC) Data Analyst, Glesni Phillips said: “Lamb performed exceptionally well over the Easter period this year. It saw a 10.2% increase in the number of buyers engaging with the product and a rise of 3.3% in the frequency of which lamb was bought.

“The average price of lamb was also higher, but this obviously did not deter new buyers. The figures show that there are new buyers in all age categories, but this is especially true for shoppers aged under 45 years and those with children.

“The pandemic has led to more consumers cooking at home, giving many the opportunity to realise and enjoy the exceptional qualities and versatility of Welsh Lamb, and at the same time, support the local economy.”

Butchers also benefitted from the popularity of lamb in the run-up to Easter with total spend increasing by 16.1% on the year. The volume sold also increased, by 12.6%.

Glesni Phillips added: “As we approach the end of Spring, the consumer demand for lamb is continuing. This can be seen in the liveweight lamb prices which remain strong when compared to historical averages, with the average SQQ in Wales standing at 329.7p/kg in Wales for the week ending 15 May 2021.

“New season lambs are now entering the market – they accounted for over 70% of lambs at auction in Wales during the latest week – but the supply is still relatively tight. HCC is looking forward to working with retailers over the coming months on new activity, which will include in-store marketing, press and targeted digital communication to maintain this growth in sales. Butchers, who demonstrated their key role in the community during the pandemic, will also be offered training on a number of key skills to boost their sales even further.”

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