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Farming

A plan of action for Welsh food and drink

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wales foodA NEW action plan setting out how the Welsh Government will help Wales’s food and drink industry grow by 30 percent to £7 billion by 2020 was launched on Thursday, June 12, by Alun Davies, the Minister for Natural Resources and Food. 

Wales’s food and farming industry is already a significant contributor to the Welsh economy and accounts for £5.2bn turnover, 45,000 jobs and £1.3bn Gross Value Added (GVA) in Wales. Towards Sustainable Growth: An Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014 – 2020 recognises the importance of the sector and lists 48 actions that will deliver greater profitability, growth and jobs. All actions are time-specific and will be measured against outcomes. They include: * Creating a Food & Drink Wales Industry Board to provide leadership and a voice for the industry * Developing the new Food & Drink Wales/ Bwyd a Diod Cymru identity for food and drink to emphasise Welsh provenance and promote trade and market development * Focusing on training to create a skilled and capable workforce throughout the food chain The Minister will address around 150 food businesses, farming unions, university representatives and key players from the UK’s food and drink industry in Cardiff later today and will set out how the plan will help achieve sustainable growth and a profitable future for the sector. Alun Davies said: “This is a very exciting time to be involved in the Welsh food and drink industry – we are progressing well, but we must do more to achieve our ambitious targeting of increasing the turnover of the food and drink sector by 30 percent over the next seven years. “In producing this plan we have listened to feedback from the industry and have worked to provide the support it needs to thrive – whether that be better research, administration support, help identifying market opportunities, business advice or financial investment. “This plan is not a high level strategy, it is completely focused on delivery. For it to be a success, the plan must be delivered in partnership between the industry and Government – with the new Food and Drink Industry Board representing the voice of the industry and providing clear, strong leadership.” The Minister is inviting nominations from the industry for the position of Chair of the Board and will announce this appointment at the Royal Welsh Show in July. Other speakers at the launch event included Tara McCarthy, Food & Beverages Director of Bord Bia (Irish Food Board) and James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food and Drink, who will talk about their experiences of implementing food and drink strategies in their own countries. The Minister added: “I cannot overstate the importance of Welsh food. It has an impact on almost every part of our daily lives from our economy, climate, health and our ability to learn – as well as being central to the culture of Wales. “Despite successes in recent years, so far we have only scratched the surface in terms of what we can achieve and I see this action plan opening up new opportunities for our food producers in terms of exports, skills and training and increasing the profile and reputation of Welsh food.” The Farmers’ Union of Wales welcomed the Action Plan’s launch, describing it as an “ambitious document” which could have real benefits for the food industry in Wales. The Union stressed that the primary production sector is a vital aspect of the food and drink industry in Wales and a profitable farming industry will help deliver the ambitious targets within the plan. FUW president Emyr Jones said: “Wales has been without a strategic direction for food and drink over the past few years so today’s launch will begin the process of growing the Welsh food chain from farm to fork which, if implemented properly, could help farm businesses become more sustainable economically. “The programme aims to grow sales within the food and farming sector by 30% and the FUW welcomes the fact that many of its comments and suggestions submitted during the consultation process have been adopted as part of the strategy.” The strategy itself comprises 48 action proposals ranging from upskilling the labour force to public sector procurement and business growth and development. “The FUW will now consider the detail of the Action Plan and will contribute to the ongoing discussions on its implementation,” Mr Jones added.

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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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