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Farming

FUW’s ‘Buy The Welsh One’ campaign reaches the Sahara

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saharaTHE FARMERS’ Union of Wales’ “Help Cut Food Miles…Buy The Welsh One” message already promoted in a variety of events at the Welsh Assembly, House of Lords and European Parliament has cropped up – in the middle of the Sahara Desert. 

That’s because the union’s Anglesey county branch was a sponsor of Sian Pierce Roberts, of Cefn Arthen, Brynsiencyn, who has just returned from a seven-day, 115km camel trek through the Sahara where she proudly wore the FUW’s “Buy The Welsh One” campaign tee-shirt. Her father Gwyn and mother Nerys are FUW members and Nerys runs the “Pobty’r Bryn” award-winning bakery renowned for its Bara Brith, Taffi Triog (treacle toffee), oat cakes and shortbread. Sian, who recently started working as a midwife after completing a BA course in midwifery at Bangor University, took part in the sponsored Sahara Trek to raise money for SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society). “Since working as a midwife, I have become familiar with the SANDS charity who do a wonderful job providing support for parents, families and friends who have lost a baby,” she said. “The charity supports further research that endeavours to reduce these numbers. “Whilst I’m still young and healthy, I decided that I wanted to help the charity and agreed to participate in the ‘trek’ through the Sahara desert. It was a memorable experience, to say the least. “I had to raise a minimum sponsorship of ?2,250 towards the trip, so I decided to organise events such as concerts, bag packing in supermarkets and barbecues. I wanted to raise money through events where the public would gain something back. “Throughout the 18 months of fund-raising, I received great support from a variety of people, such as local businesses, friends and family and I’m extremely grateful to the FUW for sponsoring me.” In her spare time, Sian enjoys taking part in young farmers’ competitions and is the current chairman of the YFC movement in Anglesey. “Bodedern YFC organised a party and Rhosybol YFC organised a pancake night with the proceeds going towards sponsoring the trip, so I am extremely grateful to them all for the support. “Before setting off I didn’t know anyone on the trip, so I met 20 people for the first time at Heathrow airport on the morning of March 8. We all came from different backgrounds, jobs and parts of the UK but all of us had one thing in common – we were all there to raise money for a charity close to our hearts. “Within days we all became firm friends as we were with each other 24 hours a day for nine days, and we’d support and encourage each other throughout the journey. I organised the trip through a London company called Skyline, so as well as the 21 people we also had three team leaders, three men who would be in charge of the camels, two chefs and one doctor – so we were in safe hands! “We flew from Heathrow to Casablanca, which is at the top of Morocco, then an hour’s flight from Casablanca to Ouazazate, and a fivehour bus ride to the desert, where we met seven camels who were also venturing on the journey to carry our water, bags, food packages and the doctor’s package. “We were about to walk for seven days, with two travelling days either side. From day to day, we got up by 6am, had breakfast and then start walking. We walked for about four to five hours in the morning and two to three hours in the afternoon – apart from one day, when we got a little bit lost, so we walked for 11 hours! “It’s safe to say we definitely completed the 100km but the leader thought it was close to 115km by the end of the trip. The trip varied on a daily basis. The sand piles got bigger and bigger the further we got into the desert, and if we were walking on a flat piece, the ground got dusty, with small and large stones under foot. “There were a few things that would complicate your day and they affected everyone in different ways. One thing I noticed was that we take simple things like clean water, showers and electricity for granted. I’ve never used so many baby wipes and dry shampoo! “It was approximately 30 degrees and the temperature would drop down to freezing during the night. So we had to wrap up warm and make sure that we had a good sleeping bag! I did expect it to be boiling hot but, to be honest, it was not too bad as there was a nice breeze whilst we were walking. “But one of the things I did not expect was the rain – and, sure enough, one night we had heavy rain – and we were in bed by 8pm! The leader informed us the next day, of all the years he has worked in the desert, only once has he experienced rain in the Sahara! “We had been advised prior to the start of the trip to bring ski glasses with us, in the event of a sandstorm.? And sure enough, I experienced three storms whilst I was in the Sahara and they were very vigorous! “It was extremely difficult to walk through these sandstorms as we could only see two feet in front of us! Although I did not want a storm and rain, I’m glad I’ve had these experiences to add to the adventures of the trip. “The chefs and the camel crew would put two tents up every night – one to cook in and one to eat in – and they would always prepare a feast for us. “In the mornings, if we were lucky, we had bread and porridge for breakfast, salad and fruit for lunch and a three-course meal that included soup, vegetables, meat and fruit for dinner. The food was wonderful and it was miraculous what the crew could achieve in such a small tent. “The trip is an experience to remember. I’ve had the privilege of seeing a foreign country, meeting people from different backgrounds and, most importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to raise money for a great charity! “I’d like to thank everyone for all their support, and with their help I’ve raised ?3,400 for SANDS.” Sian will be telling the story of her fund-raising Sahara trek when she attends FUW Anglesey’s annual general meeting on Thursday June 26 (7.30pm) at Tafarn-y-Rhos, Rhostrewfa, as a guest speaker.

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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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Farming

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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