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.”
NFU Cymru President’s New Year message
NFU Cymru President John Davies provides his New Year message, looking back over an unprecedented 12 months and assessing what lies ahead in 2021.
“2020 was a year the likes of which we’ve never seen. The Coronavirus pandemic has challenged all of society. My condolences go out to all of those who’ve lost loved ones to this disease. My thoughts are with all whose livelihoods have been affected by the knock-on effects that the pandemic has had on businesses and our general way of life. I’d like to place on record my heartfelt thanks to our NHS workers and those supporting them on the front line for their courage in tackling this global health emergency. So often the term ‘hero’ is attached to those in films or on the sporting stage, but if this year has taught us anything it’s that, in fact, the real heroes are those people in our communities who have gone to work – putting themselves at risk – to care for the sick and keep the rest of us safe. Diolch yn fawr iawn pawb.
“The initial impact of the Covid-19 outbreak and the overnight closure of the hospitality sector had severe consequences for the food supply chain. The resilience of those systems was stretched to the limit as the supply chain frantically sought to redirect produce that would usually be destined for the out-of-home market to the retail sector, where panic-buying had resulted in empty shelves in many stores. I thank all our farmers who have worked throughout the chaos of the Covid-19 fallout to keep the nation fed. I know that for many businesses and sectors this hasn’t always been easy and some experienced significant losses as those supply chains struggled to adapt to new demands. However, the role the entire industry has played during such a fraught period will live long in the memory of many, and indeed recent polls suggests farmers’ favourability with the consumer is higher than it has been in a decade.
“I very much hope that lessons can be learned from this tumultuous year and if the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that the safe, reliable supply of high quality affordable food is now of paramount importance to the public. As farmers we are ready and committed to ensuring that the nation remains fed during this difficult time and through future challenges, too. Our farming systems, underpinned by a fantastic, natural asset base, mean we are well equipped to be the providers of the most climate friendly food in the world. NFU Cymru will continue to lobby Welsh Government to see the importance of food production recognised and protected as a cornerstone of future policy.
“Looking ahead and, with significant changes to how Wales and the UK trades with the EU and the rest of the world, one of the biggest challenges for 2021 is going to be making sure that Welsh farmers have the widest possible range of markets freely open to them, on the best possible terms. We are, of course, relieved that that a deal has finally been agreed between the UK and the European Union, providing some much-needed certainty for the farming sector and allowing Wales’ farmers to continue to send products to the EU27 free of both tariffs and quotas. All efforts must be now be focussed on finding ways of minimising the impact of red tape on the movement of our produce to the EU.
“A heartfelt thanks must go to the one million people from all walks of life who backed our food standards campaign. Their support was instrumental in delivering legislation to ensure that food standards will now have a ‘stronger voice in UK trade policy’.
“Of course, away from the pandemic and agricultural policy, there are still major issues that are affecting the nation’s farmers every day. Bovine TB continues to blight so many businesses across Wales – all too many times this year I have again learned of families’ heartbreak and herds, generations in the making, being decimated due to this horrific disease. Please be assured that NFU Cymru will continue to pressure government to act upon the science and take notice of the proven strategies adopted by so many other countries – an approach that seeks to tackle bovine TB across all its vectors.
“NFU Cymru maintains that a heavy-handed and inflexible approach to water quality through the proposed all Wales Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) designation will not deliver the enhancements to water quality that we all want to see. NFU Cymru is committed to helping to deliver these improvements via an effective and proportionate framework that supports farmers to take action to improve water quality where it is needed. I am heartened that our Minister has recognised that these are not regulations to introduce at a time of crisis.
“Climate change remains a major challenge for all of us in society and the farming industry is putting its best foot forward to deliver on its net zero 2040 ambition. With the prestigious COP26 summit rescheduled to be held in Glasgow in 2021, it is clear this topic will, rightly, remain high on the news agenda next year. As a farmer, it’s important to me that farming’s contribution to mitigating the effects of climate change is fairly reflected in this debate. Recent research has pointed to the fact that Welsh livestock production systems are amongst the most sustainable in the world, but we know that there is much more we can and will do.
“With a Senedd election scheduled for May 2021 we will be speaking to candidates from across the political spectrum to push home the importance of Welsh food and farming. We are committed to working with the next government to deliver our ambitions for a productive, profitable and progressive farming sector that delivers for the people and communities of Wales.
“It has been a year like no other. With the vaccine rollout now underway I hope we will soon be able to consign the last pandemic-hit year to the history books and return to some form of normality, where we can soon meet at the agricultural shows and events that we all hold dear to our heart. Let us look ahead to 2021 and what we hope will be a bright, healthy and safe future.
“Blwyddyn Newydd dda.”
Farmers face hidden tax hike
POTENTIAL changes to rules on Capital Gains Tax could lead to a tax hike for those inheriting farmland and assets, financial advisers at NFU Mutual have warned.
Many farmers can potentially pass on farms to their children free from Inheritance Tax due to Agricultural Property Relief and Business Property Relief.
As capital gains are wiped away on death, children inheriting can sell and only face Capital Gains Tax on any rise in value between the date of death and a sale.
However, in a review ordered by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the Office of Tax Simplification has recommended that gains should no longer be wiped away on death where the estate has claimed Agricultural or Business Property relief to reduce Inheritance tax.
Sean McCann, Chartered Financial Planner at NFU Mutual, said: “Many farmers choose to hold on to their farming assets until death on the basis that not only might they be free of Inheritance tax, but also escape Capital Gains Tax if sold shortly after death.
“The Office of Tax Simplification’s recommendation that gains should no longer be wiped on death where Agricultural or Business Property relief has been claimed to reduce inheritance tax will mean bigger tax bills for some farming families.
“The biggest impact will be on those who sell farming assets they’ve recently inherited. Those that retain the assets and continue to farm won’t face any immediate tax liability under the proposed changes.
“The Office of Tax Simplification also recommended a hike in Capital Gains Tax rates that would align them to Income Tax rates, leading to larger tax bills.
“However, it’s likely that any change would be accompanied by an allowance to take account of the rise in value caused by general inflation, so any tax is only levied on ‘real’ gains.
“It’s important to stress Rishi Sunak has not yet confirmed he will agree to these recommendations, but many farming families will be watching the March Budget with interest.”
A farmer owns a farm worth £1m which he bought 25 years ago for £300,000. He dies and leaves it to his children, who sell for £1m shortly after his death. Under current rules, if he met the criteria for 100% Agricultural and Business Property relief, they would pay no inheritance tax on the £1m and no Capital Gains Tax on the sale.
Under the proposal to abolish the tax-free update on death, while there would still be no inheritance tax due – if the farmer’s children sold shortly after his death, they would face a Capital Gains Tax bill on the £700,000 gain. Based on the existing rate (20%) that would trigger a Capital Gains Tax bill of £140,000.
“It’s important to stress Rishi Sunak has not yet confirmed he will agree to these recommendations, but many farming families will be watching the March Budget with interest.”
Consumers ‘sleepwalking’ away from meat
A LACK of inspiration, rather than a conscious reaction to trends such as veganism, was at the heart of the pre-Covid-19 reduction in meat, fish and poultry consumption, new AHDB research has suggested.
Before the pandemic struck, some 7.8 million (35%) households in Great Britain had unwittingly purchased less meat, fish and poultry products, according to AHDB analysis of Kantar data [52 w/e 26 January]. This figure accounted for 99% of the 1.3% volume drop in retail sales.
However, the twenty per cent of households which had at least one ‘conscious meat reducer’ accounted for just 1% of the losses, with the majority citing other reasons for reducing consumption.
The unconscious reducers were said by the report to mostly be of retirement age and living with fewer people. They were found to be much less likely to experiment with cooking or refer to themselves as a ‘foodie’, preferring more traditional dishes. They were also found to be unsatisfied with shopping for meat, with just 29% of the unconscious reducer group saying they enjoyed browsing meat aisles and only 31% find them to be inspiring.
The report urged the meat industry to focus its efforts on winning this group back as they offered a better route to boosting meat consumption than conscious reducers.
“How unconscious reducers think and feel about meat isn’t any different to those people who are actually increasing their meat consumption – they’re not turning away on purpose so there is a chance to re-engage them with the category,” explained one of the report’s authors, AHDB senior retail insight manager Kim Malley.
“The biggest opportunity is at the point of purchase. The key thing the report highlights is those people are wanting a better in-store experience. There could be simple messaging in-store to remind people why they enjoy meat, give them a bit of inspiration and remind them it’s versatile and convenient.”
Malley added the meat-free category is “excelling” in innovation and convenience through ready-meal and marinated NPD – products which the report said the meat industry had invested less heavily in.
She also praised the packaging of meat alternatives, which tended to be “very colourful and brought recipes and flavours to life” for shoppers, and urged the meat industry to do its own innovation in these areas in a bid to win back “distracted” consumers.
According to the report, distractions included negative media coverage of the meat industry and the prominence of plant-based ranges in stores.
But in positive news for the sector, it found the coronavirus pandemic had seen sales volumes of meat, fish and poultry rise 8% year-on-year in the 52 weeks to 6 September. Unconscious reducers were discovered to have accounted for 35% of this uplift.
Malley said meat “benefited massively” from the rise in in-home occasions this year and consumers thinking more about their food choices. “It has highlighted that it’s quite easy to re-engage people,” she said.
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