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Committed to the future, remembering history

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Sharing memories and comparing notes are (l-r): Roy Edwards, founder member of the union in 1955 Mr T Llew Jones MBE, FUW president Glyn Roberts and Nerys Edwards

Sharing memories and comparing notes are (l-r): Roy
Edwards, founder member of the union in 1955 Mr T Llew
Jones MBE, FUW president Glyn Roberts and Nerys Edwards

THE FARMERS’ UNION  OF WALES celebrated its 60th  anniversary on Tuesday, December  8 with a trip down memory lane.  Sharing memories and comparing  notes on the state of the industry were  Roy and Nerys Edwards and their four  sons, of Groesasgwrn, Llangynderyn,  Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire and Mr T  Llew Jones MBE, a founder member  of the union in 1955.  The couple joined the FUW in  May 2015 – making them the newest  and one of the ‘youngest’ FUW  members in the founder county.

Roy was the winner of Fferm  Factor for the year 2014 and Nerys’  time is split between being actively  involved in the running of the home  farm, helping her husband and  keeping a successful occasion cake  business ‘Cacennau Moethus’.  The informal visit gave the couple  and FUW president Glyn Roberts,  who also attended the visit, the chance  to explore the different views of those  who were actively involved in the setup  of the FUW 60 years ago and those  who have just joined the organisation.

“Farming has changed  dramatically over the last 60 years  and it was interesting to hear about the  challenges the farming community  faced in 1955 and how these compare  to the struggles but also opportunities  the current generation of farmers  deal with,” said FUW president Glyn  Roberts.  Many stories were shared over  cups of tea and wonderful homemade  cake and Glyn Roberts  particularly enjoyed looking through  old photographs with Llew Jones.  He said,” It was inspiring to hear  the stories of how the FUW was  founded back in 1955 – and how  determined our Welsh ancestors were  to fight for Welsh farming and the  small family farm.”  The evening celebration at the  Halliwell Centre in Carmarthen was  well attended by FUW staff old and  new and many members.

Guest speaker the Rt Hon. the  Lord Morris of Aberavon KG QC,  who was actively involved with the  formation of the FUW as the union’s  legal adviser and deputy general  secretary between 1956 and 1958,  talked about how the FUW was  formed and reminded guests that the  union was born out of the frustration  felt by Welsh farmers, when their  needs and voices were not being  heard by the Westminster Parliament.  It was down to their dream of  having a Welsh farming union he  said and the tenacity of these Welsh  entrepreneurs that the FUW has  been given the official right by the  Government to represent and speak  on behalf of Welsh farmers and the  union has done so at the highest level  – at the National Assembly, Whitehall  and Brussels ever since.  Speaking at the dinner, union  president Glyn Roberts added that,  “We are here today because of the  vision of the founder members who  have worked so hard.  “It is an overwhelming honour to  stand in front of you as president of  this union, but that honour also has  great responsibilities and a duty, not  only to those that have fought so hard  in the past, but also to those that will  take over from us in future.”

The president further added that  Shakespeare once said that Owain  Glyndwr was not like most men,  he had a vision. We can proudly  say the same about the pioneers of  the FUW. Their vision was to have  an independent voice for Welsh  agriculture; an union that spoke for  them, and which had the interest of  Welsh farmers at its core.  “I have no doubt in my mind that  all of us will do everything we can to  honour those founding members and  ensure that their vision of a strong  voice for the industry remains at the  core of the FUW’s principles.”  Carmarthen county executive  officer David Waters, who was  heavily involved in organising the  evening function, said “I would like  to thank all the staff for helping  to organise such an enjoyable and  successful dinner.  “We also held a raffle to  raise money for the British Heart  Foundation Cymru and I am very  pleased to say that we have raised  £1,600 for the cause.”

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Farming

Economic value of red meat sector rises

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

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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

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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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