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Farming

Dairy report will inform farming policy

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Preparing for the future: Report shows profitable dairy farming possible

THE WELSH G​OVERNMENT​ says that a new report into the Welsh dairy industry will help farmers improve the performance and resilience of their businesses and prepare for the future post Brexit.

In 2017, the Welsh Government provided £3.2 million of European conditional aid to Welsh dairy farmers through two schemes focusing on farm business benchmarking and herd milk recording.

An encouraging 75% of dairy farmers took up the opportunity – the highest level of uptake in the UK. Along with aid funding, farmers also received a bespoke report showing the strengths and weaknesses of their business with a comparison with other dairy farms.

KEY FINDINGS

Invaluable data produced from the benchmarking scheme was used to produce a providing a snapshot of Welsh dairy farm performance. Key findings include:

The importance of farmers constantly measuring the financial performance of their business to help them become more efficient;

the top performing farms demonstrate that profitable dairy farming is possible with excellent returns, even in difficult trading conditions;

some farms, have costs of production which are higher than the milk price has ever reached;

farmers should take advantage of the plentiful supply of grass and maximise the milk they produce from grass and forage;

farmers who have made a conscious choice about their production system tend to be more profitable; and
maintaining high standards of animal health and welfare reduced the financial impact of diseases and can give the industry a competitive advantage.

SUPPORT TO BE TAILORED

Support to help dairy farmers address the issues identified in the report is available through the Welsh Government’s Farming Connect programme and via the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Dairy.

Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths said: “The approach we adopted to providing aid to our dairy farmers has provided us with useful data on the performance of the industry in Wales.

“The report published today will go a long way to help farmers improve the performance of their business by reducing their costs of production. This will improve the efficiency of our dairy farms, allowing them to become more resilient to business risks and milk price volatility.

“As a government, our priority is to work with everyone affected to prepare for a world outside the European Union and for a resilient agricultural sector. This report will provide invaluable information to help us decide how best to support the dairy sector to prepare for the future.

“While the report shows profitable dairy farming is possible, I am particularly concerned that some Welsh dairy farms have costs of production which are higher than the milk price has ever reached. That is why I am in the process of tailoring the support we offer these farms to help them re-evaluate the structure of their business and use their benchmarking report to see where improvements can be made.

“It is clear from the report that by becoming more efficient and focusing on producing milk at a lower cost of production, all farms can become more profitable, no matter what the milk price is.

“Brexit presents significant challenges to the agriculture industry but also opportunities. The industry, and individual farmers, must start to plan now for the future.

“The long term outlook for the dairy sector is good with global demand forecasted to increase year on year. Our dairy farmers need to be competitive and market focused to compete with the best in the world. If this happens then I firmly believe our dairy farmers have a bright future.

“I encourage all Welsh dairy farmers and the wider industry to use the available data to help them prepare for the post Brexit world; to help make their businesses both resilient and prosperous.”

NFU WELCOMES REPORT

NFU Cymru has welcomed the publication of report.

Gareth Richards NFU Cymru Milk Board Chairman and dairy farmer from Carmarthenshire said: “Milk production is a major contributor to the gross output of Welsh agriculture. This report shows the vulnerability and volatility of the sector but also highlights opportunities available to individual producers and to the sector as a whole in Wales.

“Through the production of individual reports for contributors this has enabled farming businesses to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their business by benchmarking against others.

“As the Cabinet Secretary, Lesley Griffiths, has said, tailored packages are now available for individual producers to move their business on and future proof them for the potential massive changes Brexit will bring. I would encourage all 1,700 milk producers in Wales to make use of services that AHDB Dairy and Farming Connect can offer both on an individual farm level and in participative group activity.”

NFU Cymru Deputy President Aled Jones said: “The data captured as part of this EU conditional aid scheme is invaluable not just for farmers to help them identify where to target performance improvements on farm, but also for policy makers to help design and implement policies that ensure we can achieve our vision of a productive, progressive and profitable industry in Wales.

“The opportunity to collect data that Welsh Government requires to meet climate change and environmental obligations is also invaluable and this project provides a baseline against which to measure future progress.

“As part of a comprehensive post-Brexit agriculture policy for Wales, NFU Cymru believes the incentivised collection of key performance data should be an integral part of a new policy based around our three cornerstones of productivity, environment and volatility measures. Collection of key data around production, farm structure, financial, environmental and Greenhouse gas emissions can help inform decision making at farm and national policy level. The data collected can also help underpin the credentials of ‘Brand Wales’, a concept based on providing Wales with a unique selling point to market the full range of goods and services provided by Welsh farming.
“We hope the success of this scheme can now be built upon and replicated not just for the dairy sector but also to all the key farming sectors in Wales.”

Farming

Areas of growth, opportunity, and inspiration: OECD report claims

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Food exports: Market messages need to be tailored

BRITISH food exporters need to gain an understanding of consumer needs in different countries if the UK’s farmers are to fully reap the rewards of overseas trade, according to AHDB.

In its latest edition of the Horizon Brexit series, AHDB argues that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to unlocking export opportunities should be avoided and that we cannot rely on ‘Brand Britain’ alone to boost sales.

The report, focuses on international buying behaviours and looks at exporting from a consumer perspective. It highlights the need for industry to monitor and adapt to the needs of each marketplace to create more opportunities.

The study included responses from more than 4,500 consumers in nine countries – from key UK export markets in North America, Europe, Gulf States and Asia – around what motivates and drives them to choose the food they buy.

Among the key findings was that, while seven out of the nine countries surveyed said ‘quality’ was the most important factor, both China and Japan stated ‘food safety’ as critical in their food choices.

Christine Watts, AHDB chief communication and market development officer, said: “Concerns and priorities vary by market and many could benefit from tailored messaging to appeal to these different interests.

“For instance, in China and Japan food safety is critical. Communication to these markets needs to be tailored to meet the desires of consumers so they know more about the safety of the food they eat.”

The report also closely considers the impact of ‘British’ branding overseas and looks at some of the opportunities and challenges this holds in a post-Brexit world.

Steven Evans, AHDB consumer insight manager and author of the report, said: “The research looked to capture the reaction to ‘Brand Britain’ and understand objectively how other countries see us. We found that many consumers have not had direct exposure to British food products and, therefore, have not had the opportunity to build a firm view of their qualities.

“This highlights that exposure to products and clear branding is necessary to drive awareness and build brand reputation.”

Other key aspects from the report include how different sectors also have different drivers in buying behaviour. For example, while quality was important for both meat and dairy, price featured second in the list for meat while freshness was the second highest purchase motivator in the dairy industry.

Also, promoting the same meat cuts across all countries would not be beneficial for British exporters as lifestyles, tastes and food choices differ around the world.

AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley said: “Often, what we as a British consumer perceive as a good product message will not be relevant for all export markets.

“For example, the Chinese Sunday roast is not commonplace but Dong Po Rou (braised pork belly) is. Both hold a similar association as they both use larger joints but each fit very different meal occasions.

“We also know that a Chinese consumer is comfortable to view the whole journey from farm to fork. But it would be dangerous to assume that the same approach across all export markets will result in the same sales performance.

“A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t allow for customisation and adapting to meet specific domestic demands. It is critical that British food producers don’t make assumptions that their product has the same relevance across all markets.”

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Farming

Rural areas vital for economies

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Areas of growth, opportunity, and inspiration: OECD report claims

RURAL areas are vital to national economies and addressing global challenges, according to the policy statement released at the 11th OECD Rural Development Conference held in Edinburgh.

The policy statement, which provides guidance to governments to support rural economic development, also declared that innovation will be critical to the future competitiveness and sustainability of rural economies. It also outlines the case for focusing on rural areas as engines of national prosperity and how policies should leverage this opportunity.

Jose Enrique Garcilazo, Head of OECD’s Regional and Rural Policy Unit, said: “Rural regions are not synonymous with decline or agricultural specialisation, but places of growth, opportunity and inspiration, yet rural is still not central to government policy. Rural areas have a key part to play in some of our major global challenges. They are best placed to develop new energy sources, to help sustain our natural environment and to ensure food security.

“In an increasingly interconnected world, opportunities are emerging to promote rural prosperity. Digitalisation will propel rural economies forward, and the conference has highlighted that supporting innovation in rural areas will be key to the future prosperity and wellbeing of rural regions.”

The policy statement identifies 10 key drivers of change predicted to influence the future of rural economies and communities and their potential to prosper, including additive manufacturing (for example 3D printing); decentralised energy systems; digital connectivity; the future of health; shifting values and preferences; drones; and driverless cars.

The statement also recommends that, in addition to prioritising rural innovation, a robust rural policy should place social, environmental and economic wellbeing at the forefront of policy decisions and take an integrated view across policy sectors to avoid one policy detracting from another.

The 2018 Conference, Enhancing Rural Innovation, was hosted by the Scottish Government and co-hosted by the European Commission and the UK, to provide a forum for key policy officials and academics from OECD member countries to engage and share ideas and experiences on rural policy.

It is the eleventh in the OECD Rural Conference Series, which has been held all over the world since its inception in 2002.

Prior to the main conference, a series of interactive sessions, led by the European Network for Rural Development, showcased exemplary projects and approaches already launched by rural communities to embrace 21st century challenges and opportunities.

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Farming

Rural Wales in ‘the 4G Wilderness’

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#4GforAll: CLA Wales highlights digital divide

NEW DATA gathered by the CLA has shown what rural communities have suspected for a long time; that the mobile industry is willing to abandon rural areas to the digital wilderness.

Director Rebecca Williams says: “Our information has revealed that too few planning applications have been made for mobile phone masts in our rural counties to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural community.

“Latest research has shown that a county such as Powys – which has appallingly poor mobile connectivity at less than 3 per cent – has seen just 13 mast sites applied for in the past 12 months, yet urban counties such as Cardiff have seen as many as 62 applications. Even a rural county, such as Monmouthshire, close to the urban centres of Bristol, Newport and Cardiff, has seen just two mast applications.

“With 5G on the horizon in 2022, progress needs to be better – and Wales must not be left in the boondocks. The rural community must not be excluded. Farms and rural businesses lack the digital service they need to be competitive. We must remember that this is not about resident population numbers, since mobile communication should be available to everyone everywhere.”

In February, the CLA asked Ofcom to force reluctant mobile network operators to improve coverage in rural areas by imposing a legally binding coverage target on their operating licenses. It called for EE, O2, Vodafone and Three to be required to deliver 4G coverage to at least 95% of the UK geographic landmass on all networks by 2022.

Rebecca Williams continues: “Three years ago, we were told that coverage would be delivered in the countryside and yet rural communities are still waiting. In the same period the mobile industry has extracted concession after concession from UK Government Ministers. They have got the new legal powers they wanted, on the basis that they are a utility service.

“Now they must be forced to deliver the universal service that a utility operator provides. We expect government and the regulator to take a tough line on this, and if Ofcom won’t then Ministers must step in.”

The CLA has highlighted Ofcom’s failure to push mobile network operators to achieve universal coverage for consumers. It is calling on the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to review Ofcom’s statutory remit and confirm that the body should prioritise working towards universal, quality mobile coverage for consumers.

“The mobile operators have no market incentive to improve coverage in these rural areas. It is absolutely clear that the only way they will deliver the coverage the countryside needs is if they are forced to do so. However rather than pushing them to achieve universal coverage for consumers, Ofcom is setting soft targets for rural coverage. As a result rural consumers face inadequate service and lack of network choice for years to come.”

Further information can be found at www.cla.org.uk/4gForAll and Ofcom’s 700Mhz spectrum auction proposal.

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