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Farming

Market questions remain unanswered

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Richard and Rachel Walker: Urge the UK Government to provide clarity

A GLAMORGAN beef and sheep farming couple have called for clarity on trade and funding post-Brexit on the eve of the 1 year exit countdown.

Farmers’ Union of Wales Glamorgan County Chairman Richard Walker and his partner Rachel Edwards, who run Flaxland Farm – a 120 acre holding just outside of Barry, look after 120 breeding ewes, 3 rams, 40 lambs from last year, 150 lambs from this year and 100 cattle (consisting of 37 breeding and 60 young stock).

They are worried about the lack of progress made in trade negotiations and the fact that farmers in Wales still don’t know what budget will be allocated to Wales in terms of agriculture.

Speaking from his farm, Richard said: “We are 1 year away from leaving the EU, yet we have no idea of where our produce will be sold to and under what conditions and we don’t know how much money will be allocated to Wales as part of the agricultural budget. It is very worrying and I urge the UK Government to provide clarity as soon as possible.”

Even though Richard and Rachel have secured a market for their lambs with local butchers in the Vale of Glamorgan, the concern for the rest of the industry remains.

Rachel said: “We have managed to secure a market for our produce locally but that doesn’t in any way help the other lamb producers across Wales. Politicians need to understand that most of the lambs born this year will be sold into a post-Brexit market – but what exactly that market looks like, and under what conditions, such as tariffs, where and how our produce will be sold is a mystery.

“All this talk of farmers having to future-proof their business and be forward thinking is well and good but those in power need to do their bit too.”

Addressing the issue of funding, FUW Managing Director Alan Davies said: “Historically the funding to support farming in Wales has come from the Common Agricultural Policy, but once the UK leaves the EU in March next year that link will be broken.

“Any funding to support agriculture will have to come from the UK Treasury. We’ve already heard that the Government will commit the same amount of funding to agriculture for the rest of this parliament. But there are complexities around how that funding might be allocated.

“If the UK Treasury matches, as is expected, the current EU payments of £3.5 billion to DEFRA to support UK agriculture, there are at least 2 ways in which that money can be allocated to Wales. One method and the one most often used in UK Government financial calculations is to use the Barnett Formula.”

Mr Davies explained that when “new” money is allocated to a government department, generally the “Barnett consequential” for Wales is around 5.6% of the total money allocated. That means that if DEFRA receive £3.5 billion, the “Consequential” for Wales will be around £196 million.

“Wales has historically received around 9.4% of the total EU CAP budget allocation to the UK. That would equate to £329 million. Barnett would reduce our funding by around 40% and that must not happen.

“In order to deliver Fair Farm Funding for Wales it is therefore essential that the UK Government allocate funds outside the Barnett formula.

“Wales urgently needs certainty that we will receive at least our historical share of the UK’s agricultural and rural development budget promised by Secretary of State Michael Gove, especially as the budget for next year needs to be in place by October this year,” he added.

Farming

NSA Lambing List closes

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AS A much-valued service to its members, the National Sheep Association’s (NSA) Lambing List provides farmers with a place to advertise for much-needed lambing assistance from students and others seeking work experience each year.


The list annually provides an annual matchmaking service for around 400 farmers and veterinary and agriculture students. And despite a second lambing season under the constraints of Covid-19 restrictions the list has once again successfully helped farmers across the UK at this busy time of year.


The list has now closed and will reopen for advertisements for the 2021/2022 lambing season in the Autumn.
 NSA Communications Officer Katie James says: “The popularity of the NSA Lambing List grows each year.
“The guidance it provides to farmers using it and the links it offers students means it is incredibly valued by all parties involved. For most, the past two lambing seasons have taken place during Covid-19 restrictions meaning potential shortages of staff due to travel constraints or illness from the virus itself and additional measures to consider such as separate accommodation for temporary staff and social distancing.


“All at NSA are therefore pleased that the list has been able to help remove some of these concerns and provide a trusted method of securing extra help for its sheep farming members.”


 In a previous survey of NSA members using the list, more than 90% of respondents said they valued the list and would use it again to try and source additional lambing help from veterinary and agriculture students.


 Students who will be looking for work experience to assist their application to university or as part of ongoing veterinary studies are encouraged to consult the list from November 2021 when it becomes available once again to aid the student/farmer matchmaking.

NSA members will be able to add details of their available placements for their next lambing season from October.

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Farming

MPs urge level playing field

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IN its new report—Seafood and Meat Exports to the EU—the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee expresses urgent concerns for exporters of highly time-sensitive fresh and live seafood and meat shipments to the EU, particularly small and medium-sized businesses.
Despite overcoming initial “teething problems” the new barriers small seafood and meat export businesses face could render them unviable, and factories and jobs may relocate to the EU.
The Committee’s report, therefore, calls on the Government to ease burdens, including:

• as a matter of priority, seeking agreement with the EU on digitising the certification of paperwork such as Export Health Certificates
• taking a flexible approach to the compensation fund for seafood exporters—including reconsidering the cap of £100,000 on individual payments, and providing similar support to meat exporters
• providing the same help to small meat and seafood businesses with the costs of extra red tape for exports to the EU as they can receive for moving goods to Northern Ireland
• establishing a ring-fenced fund to help create new distribution hubs, which allow smaller consignments to be grouped into a single lorry load, so reducing transport costs.

The Committee criticises the fact that controls on EU seafood and meat imports will not commence until 1 October 2021, with checks at the border only commencing from 1 January 2022.
This has placed British businesses at a competitive disadvantage and reduced the incentive on the European Commission to negotiate measures that would lessen the burdens facing British producers.
The report finds that adhering to the revised timetable will be ‘crucial’, to ensure food safety and to create a regulatory level playing field.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, said: “British businesses have acted with incredible agility and perseverance to adapt to the new processes for exporting meat and seafood to the EU.
“With the many checks causing delays and costs, this hasn’t been easy. We are concerned that in the absence of equivalent checks for imports from the EU to Great Britain, there will be serious long-term repercussions for our producers.
“As it stands, the playing field is not even, and the Government must ensure that the new timetable to introduce import checks is adhered to.
“Even as “teething problems” are sorted, serious barriers remain for British exporters, and it is now imperative that the Government take steps to reduce these.
“It must be pragmatic in seeking an agreement with the EU to reduce the red tape that harms both sides, and in the meantime, crack on with giving practical support to small British businesses to sell their produce abroad.
“By the end of the year, the Government must have developed a digital system for certifying EHCs for imports from the EU, enabling it to then negotiate a reciprocal arrangement.”

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Farming

Cattle prices exceed averages – and expectations

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BEEF cattle prices in England and Wales have hit the milestone of £4 per kilo, making this average the highest on record in a number of years.

The average deadweight price for steers for the week ending 24 April was 401.4p per kg which is 83p higher than this time last year and 67p above the five-year average.

Market prices at present are being influenced by a number of unique factors, including strong UK domestic retail demand, a lack of supply due to stockpiling in late-2020 ahead of the Brexit deadline, and changes in trade patterns caused by both Brexit and the Covid pandemic.

Whilst the impact of these factors on demand for beef in 2021 is unpredictable, newly released data from the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) suggests that no radical shift is likely in the supply of animals over the coming months.

During 2020, total calf registrations in GB were up marginally (0.5%) on 2019. In Wales, the figures show an increase of 1.4% in beef calf registrations, whilst dairy calf numbers increased by 3.2% on the year. For 2021 so far, beef calf registrations are currently trending 1.1% below last year.

Glesni Phillips is a Data Analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC). She said: “As we approach the peak calving period for spring calving herds in Wales, it is expected that BCMS monthly registration figures will increase over the coming months.

“However, the suckler cow herd in the UK has been retracting in recent years and currently, it shows no signs of re-building quickly. Prime heifer slaughterings during 2020 and the first quarter of this year, for instance, are higher than recent historic levels.

“These figures would suggest that supply onto the domestic UK market will likely remain tight for some time. Domestic retail figures for beef are strong, and with barbeque season coming up we should continue to see good demand  for good quality, locally produced beef.”

A more detailed analysis of the BCMS calf registrations data is available in HCC’s latest Market Bulletin on the HCC website.

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