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Farming

Agriculture’s importance emphasised

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(L-R): Stephen Mansel Davies, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, Kaye Mansel Davies, FUW Deputy President, Brian Thomas, and FUW President, Glyn Roberts

(L-R): Stephen Mansel Davies, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, Kaye Mansel Davies, FUW Deputy President, Brian Thomas, and FUW President, Glyn Roberts

A DELEGATION of Farmers’ Union of Wales officials met with Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, on Monday (Aug 15) to discuss the wider economic and social importance of agriculture to the rural and urban economy as well as the importance of encouraging the next generation into the industry. 

The meeting was held at Llwyncelyn Lan farm, Llanfyrnach – home of FUW Deputy President Brian Thomas who has been farming here since 1988. The delegation then visited Mansel Davies and Son Ltd. to discuss the history and nature of the business and its interrelationship with the agricultural industry and rural economy.

Brian Thomas, who farms 280 acres, 30 acres of which is woodland, in North Pembrokeshire, runs a herd of 100 beef shorthorn cattle and a flock of 300 ewes, with cereals also being grown.

Speaking after the meeting, FUW Deputy President Brian Thomas said: “I would first of all like to thank Lesley Griffiths for meeting us here at my home farm. We had wide ranging discussions on farming matters and used the opportunity to highlight the important role farming plays in our rural economy.

“If we are to encourage the next generation to take up farming, it has to be viable for them. Looking around here, there are only one in eight farms that have children who want to take over the family business. The average age of farmers in my local area is 60 plus, so we need to put measures in place that ensure these farms have a future for the sake of our rural economy.

“I see the future for farming in youth. However, with farm household incomes averaging around £13,000 a year and working hours exceeding 60+ per week – why would they? Due to the nature of the business, we are only ever one step away from a crisis.

“Our farming businesses provide stability for the rural economy, income for our children and our families and hold communities together. We now have an opportunity to do something great – and that is shaping our own future in terms of markets and legislations, a point we made clear to the Cabinet Secretary here today.”

Highlighting how important the second and third sector businesses are in making the wheels of our rural economies go around were Stephen and Kaye Mansel Davies of Mansel Davies and Son Ltd.

The company was established in 1875 by the late John Davies. Mansel Davies, his son, joined the business in 1900 and the company still uses that name today. The company is now run by Kaye Mansel Davies (Chairman), fourth generation, and his son Stephen Mansel Davies (Managing Director). The next generation are already involved in the company.

They currently employ over 300 people and operate 180 trucks, with all of its employees living within a 40 mile radius of Llanfyrnach. Apart from the local authority and the oil refinery, they are the largest employers in Pembrokeshire with an annual turnover just short of £30 million.

Stephen Mansel Davies highlighted that 90% of the company’s work is linked to agricultural, saying that: “We are the largest milk haulier in Wales, collecting 1.4 million litres per day for seven different buyers and doing UK distribution for a further two buyers. Our total milk or milk products movements comes to about four million litres per day.”

The company delivers milk and milk products into processors in Newcastle Emlyn, Llangefni, South Caernarfon, Felinfach, Acton, London, Southampton, Droitwich, Bridgewater, Westbury, North Tawton, Aylesbury, Chester, Severnside and a number of other factories around the UK.

Another important sector of the business is the distribution of animal feed in the area. Mansel Davies and Son are also the largest suppliers of ground limestone, which they also spread on to the land for soil neutralisation.

Following the meeting with the Cabinet Secretary, Stephen Mansel Davies said: “All of those who are involved in Government need to understand how important agriculture is to Wales – it’s the only sustainable long term industry we have. When you look at the numbers employed directly and indirectly into the sector, it is far more important than people and Government give it credit for.

“Agriculture, and in particular the dairy industry, has just gone through very hard times with farm gate prices dropping in the region of 30%, which is not sustainable. As a direct result of low milk prices, we have seen volumes drop 11% from July 15 to July 16. If managed correctly, I think Brexit could bring long term positives to agriculture – the important part will be the management by government of the transition period and the short term.”

The Union will continue to highlight how much farming matters through regular meetings with key decisions makers, industry stakeholders, as well as Governments in Westminster and Cardiff.

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Farming

Worshipful Company of Farmers reunite at Bluestone

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A DELEGATION from the Worshipful Company of Farmers has visited Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire to meet with its CEO and a former dairy farmer, William McNamara.

Bluestone welcomed the 35th Advanced Farm Management Course of the Worshipful Company of Farmers for their annual reunion.

The Worshipful Company of Farmers is a Livery Company linked to the Livery Companies of London and its purpose is to inspire, encourage and develop excellence in the management of British Agriculture.

Since its formation in 1946 it has promoted farming to the nation, developed professionalism within the farming industry, and supported a wide range of charitable organisations.

After a visit to Pembrokeshire’s Puffin Produce in the morning, the group visited Bluestone to speak to Mr McNarama, a former dairy farmer, to gain further insight into the creation of the holiday resort on what was previously his farm.

Speaking about the visit, Mr McNamara said: “I was greatly honoured to have had the opportunity to host the 35th group of the Worshipful Company of Farmers at Bluestone. With my roots firmly in farming, it was a pleasure to share Bluestone’s story and my own experience of farming diversification.”

Meurig Raymond added: “To see at first hand the amazing development of the Bluestone Resort over the past 13 years was a great privilege and a highlight of our trip to Pembrokeshire.

“The group were most impressed by the Bluestone story; the incredible amount of investment into a world class holiday resort, and the sheer passion and enthusiasm which William and his team portrayed during our tour.

“There is no doubt that Bluestone is a real jewel in the future of tourism in Pembrokeshire and many of our group indicated that they will be returning with their families to enjoy the wonderful facilities at the resort.”

William spoke to the group about growing up working on the farm, located in Southwest Wales, and how he believed he was destined for a career in agriculture. After attending agricultural college, expanding the family’s milking herd and harvesting Pembrokeshire New Potatoes, it was the introduction of milk quotas that first encouraged him to diversity into leisure.

Bluestone is now one of the largest tourism operators in Wales, welcoming 160,000 staying visitors to the resort each year with an average annualised occupancy of 97%.

The resort contributes in excess of £17m per annum directly into the local community through the supply chain and payroll, and as a Green Key accredited business is committed to sustainable tourism, most recently banning the sale of plastic water bottles on the resort in partnership with Refill Wales. Over 700 people are employed in permanent, long-term positions across the site.

The 35th group, led by Meurig Raymond who is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Farmers, were treated to a full guided tour of the resort by CEO, William McNamara which included Serendome – where they enjoyed afternoon tea – and the newly opened HIVE activity centre. They also met other Bluestone team members including Director of Operations, Rebecca Rigby.

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Farming

Pembrokeshire farmers put spotlight on trade deals and climate change in discussions with local MP

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(left to right): FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz, Stephen Crabb MP, FUW Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams

FARMERS from Pembrokeshire have put the spotlight on industry concerns around the free trade deal with Australia and climate change when they met with local MP Stephen Crabb. Hosting the visit was Farmers’ Union of Wales Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams, who farms at Upper Swmbarch, Letterston near Haverfordwest.

The farm extends to approximately 94 acres, with the majority of the land rented from Pembrokeshire County Council, and 3.5 acres owned. Upper Swmbarch is home to a 50 Suckler cow herd, made up of Limousin and British Blue cows. The calves are reared with some sold as stores, some fattened and some kept as replacements. Gerwyn Williams keeps a closed herd and uses AI. Tack sheep are kept on the land in the winter.  The land is mainly down to grass, but around 3 hectares of arable silage and 3 hectares of forage rape are grown each year to feed the livestock.

The farm has participated in the Glastir Small Grants scheme, which included planting new hedgerows in a number of locations across the farm and the holding has also previously participated in the Preseli ESA scheme, Tir Gofal and Glastir Entry.

Leading the discussions on the farm walk, Mr Williams said: “We are very concerned about the free trade deal with Australia. There will be major negative impacts for our farmers in Wales. It is absolutely essential that the UK Government ensures there are break clauses in the deal to allow for it to be reviewed. We need the UK Government to stand with the farming sector and help develop export opportunities for our farmers here at home.”

Union officials further highlighted concerns around beef prices and uncertainty within the industry as to what would happen as covid restrictions continue to be lifted and more people begin to eat out. Farmgate prices declined significantly during the early stages of the pandemic given the loss of demand from the UK foodservice sector for premium products such as steaks and cheese, and yet 12 months on, the sector is witnessing soaring lamb and beef prices following a shift in reliance on local food producers and UK sourcing.

(left to right):  FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz, Stephen Crabb MP, FUW Pembrokeshire County Vice chairman Gerwyn Williams and FUW Deputy President ian Rickman

“While the domestic foodservice sector is evidently an essential outlet for Welsh produce, it is equally a particularly price sensitive outlet through which large volumes of foreign imports are sold. The FUW is concerned that if trade policies allow for cheap food that undermines our world-leading standards to be imported into the UK, the foodservice sector could become an even larger outlet for such food given that the transparency and pressure to source domestic produce is not applied to the same extent as it is with retailers,” added Gerwyn Williams. 

Mr Williams added that whilst the proportion of local produce procured by some public bodies has increased over recent years, there remain significant numbers of administrations which fail to support Welsh agriculture, choosing instead to accept produce from countries which often fail to meet the high production standards which are a requirement in Wales. 

“The nature of some procurement contracts means that what appears to be a commitment to procuring Welsh and British produce within procurement rules can be circumvented by carefully worded clauses.

“The impact of Covid-19 on food supply chains in many parts of the world has served as a stark reminder of the dangers of relying on food imports. Domestic policies and trade deals which undermine sustainable food produced by family farms in Wales subsequently place food security, food standards and therefore farmgate prices at risk. Governments must recognise the sheer importance of maintaining and supporting food production, security and standards,” he said.

Addressing concerns around climate change, Union officials  discussed how targets are set by the Government and how the UK and Welsh industry is portrayed negatively in the climate change debate. FUW Deputy President Ian Rickman said: “Many of the facts and figures used in the conversation around climate change relate to non-UK systems of production. 

“Here in Pembrokeshire ,and across Wales, farmers are adopting climate friendly systems of producing food and looking after the land for example through minimal or no till cropping, grass based production systems, planting of hedgerows, and habitat management. We can’t just get rid of the livestock, or drastically reduce it. Livestock play an essential role in looking after the land. Many habitats have to be grazed in order for them to flourish. 

“Our dairy industry is also doing their bit and many dairy farmers are already undertaking carbon footprint calculations and producing nutrient and biodiversity plans as part of their milk contracts. Farming must be seen as the solution to the climate problem and not its root cause.”

Given the many obstacles farmers now face, including the NVZ regulations and bovine TB, Union officials further stressed that recruiting young people into the agriculture sector and sourcing labour was becoming increasingly difficult.

FUW Pembrokeshire County Chairman Mike Kurtz added: “Recruitment seems to be a common problem in relation to vocational occupations that needs to be addressed. 

“I would like to thank Stephen Crabb for meeting with us again and discussing so many issues that trouble the industry. We will continue to work with the UK and Welsh Government to ensure we have thriving, sustainable family farms here in Wales for generations to come.”

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Farming

Economic value of red meat sector rises

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THE 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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