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Farming

FUW: Devolution must be respected

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IN RESPONSE to a UK Government white paper on internal markets, the Farmers’ Union of Wales has stressed the importance of protecting Welsh farmers against unfair competition from other parts of the UK and countries across the globe, and that Welsh devolution must be respected.
In his introduction to the UK Internal Market White Paper, Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, highlights how increasing differences between rules and standards applied by different Governments in the UK’s four nations after Brexit could cause market distortion, discrimination and unfair competition for businesses in a way not seen for hundreds of years.
The White Paper, therefore, proposes measures to prevent such impacts based on the principles of ‘non-discrimination’ and ‘mutual recognition’
FUW Head of Policy, Dr Nick Fenwick said: “We are glad the UK Government has woken up to the need to take this issue seriously as it has previously been kicked into the long grass because it is so politically contentious.”
Dr Fenwick said that the FUW had been highlighting the need to address this issue since the EU Referendum in 2016, and in July 2018 the FUW had published a detailed paper considering the matter entitled ‘Filling the Void – Steps towards a post-Brexit UK policy framework’.
“While we welcome the UK Government’s recognition of this issue, we are extremely concerned at the suggestion that rules could simply be dictated by London, rather than there being a means by which to reach agreement between UK Governments.”
Dr Fenwick said such a move could undermine devolution and work to the disadvantage of Welsh farmers.
“The consideration of such matters in a White Paper within months of the end of the Withdrawal Agreement period gives us very little time to hold proper detailed discussions and introduce the type of structures and bodies we truly need to make recommendations, enforce regulations, arbitrate on matters etc. in a way that is fair.”
“It also gives us very little time to sort out what are huge constitutional issues which also happen to be crucial to the running of Welsh businesses,” he added.
In response to the White Paper, the Union further stressed that while the UK Government is right to recognise the dangers of direct and indirect discrimination, unfair competition, market distortion and other issues that could arise within the GB/UK internal market, it should also recognise that the same issue exists across international borders.
“Given the current trade negotiations with the EU and USA, for example, the UK Government should also recognise the likelihood of such adverse impacts occurring as a result of inappropriate or ill-considered trade deals which expose us to different standards or unfair competition,” said Dr Fenwick.
“This is a particular concern with regard to agricultural produce produced to environmental, health and welfare, social and other standards that do not meet those required of UK producers, and subsidy and support regimes that differ significantly to those introduced in future in the UK’s four nations.”
At present, while significant differences between the UK and the EU is allowed under Single Market, Common Agricultural Policy and related rules, these are within strict boundaries aimed at minimising market distortion and unfair competition while recognising regional and national needs.
If a trade deal with the EU is reached, there is potential for market distortion and unfair competition for UK producers as a result of the fact that the EU will continue to pay farmers direct support, but Wales and England want to move over to environmental ‘public goods’ style payments – with many lobbying for farm payments to be cut altogether.
“The EU’s reaffirmed commitment to maintaining direct support for active farmers through CAP payments, coupled with a move in Wales and other parts of the UK to get rid of direct farm support in favour of environmental payments, would clearly introduce the kind of unfair competition the UK Government refers to in this paper.
“This danger is no different in principle to the dangers recognised in the Internal Markets White Paper, so also should be recognised by our Governments – not only in the context of unfair competition from the EU, our most important trading partner in terms of food, but also countries like the USA if we are to strike a deal with them.
“We need a trade deal with the EU to avoid massive damage to farms and other businesses, but we also need our governments to recognise the self inflicted damage that could be done by radically changing our own farm support systems while our main competitors twenty or thirty miles away over the sea continue with direct farm support,” he added.

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Farming

Home Office accused over labour shortages

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WESTMINSTER’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee questioned the Minister for Safe and Legal Migration at the Home Office, Kevin Foster MP last week.

Following this meeting, the Chair of the Committee, Neil Parish MP, said: “Labour shortages in the food and farming sector have caused a human and animal welfare crisis. But the Home Office is simply not listening. It is not supplying enough visas for foreign workers in a timely, efficient manner.

“Employers need workers and cannot get them in time. Pigs are being culled and wasted because there are not enough butchers in the abattoirs. Fruit is rotting on trees and crops are not being planted.

“There appears to be a disconnect between this reality and what Mr Foster says.

“Again and again during our evidence session, he said visa systems were in place to resolve the labour shortages.

“The food and farming sector tells us this is not the case.

“We need the Home Office to respond to what farmers and businesses are saying and to stop blaming the sector for being at fault.

“We need an effective cross-Government food and farming labour strategy that deals with immigration and other issues – and we need it fast.

“We have a world-class food production capacity in the UK, but the shortage of workers means we are in real danger of exporting our industry – which means we’ll be importing more of our food

“We were pleased to learn from the Minister that a temporary visa scheme is to be extended to cover the ornamental horticulture sector.

“That’s good news for the daffodil growers of Cornwall – and we thank Mr Foster for that.

“But much of the rest of the farming and food sector is in crisis and we ask the Minister to please listen to its entirely justified cries for help.”

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Farming

Food coalition demands supply chain fix

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A COALITION of leading food and farming businesses warns that the UK faces a deepening food supply chain crisis unless the government takes urgent action to fix the industry’s structural issues.

Last week, Minette Batters chaired the Food Security Summit: Serious about British food. The organisations there called on the government to set a positive food and farming policy that creates a resilient and sustainable supply chain to underpin domestic food security.

ONGOING ISSUES

The summit took place at the end of a year that saw the first-ever mass cull of healthy pigs in the UK, a shortage of seasonal workers that threatened fruit and veg being left unpicked in fields, a shortage of lorry drivers, a limited choice of products on supermarket shelves and a rise in imports due to domestic supply chain issues.

Alongside this, record inflationary pressures have affected energy, feed and fertiliser prices.

NFU President Minette Batters explained, “Britain’s farmers are world-leaders in producing climate-friendly food and, over the past 18 months, have been working hard to keep shelves and fridges full despite many being impacted by severe supply chain issues, particularly worker shortages.

“Government has tried to paper over the cracks with short-term fixes, but if we want to avoid this crisis continuing, long-term solutions are urgently needed to ensure a resilient supply chain that enables us to continue supplying everyone at home with fantastic produce, as well as leading on the global stage.”

“The UK Government has tried to paper over the cracks with short-term fixes, but if we want to avoid this crisis continuing, long-term solutions are urgently needed to ensure a resilient supply chain that enables us to continue supplying everyone at home with fantastic produce, as well as leading on the global stage.”

Minette Batters has been calling on the government to ensure that Britain maintains its self-sufficiency level.

She went on to say, “A start would be a serious commitment from government to, at the very least, maintain Britain’s food production self-sufficiency level at 60% and helping to create an environment for farm and food businesses to thrive and compete in the coming years.”

WORKING TOGETHER

Throughout the pandemic, there have been issues, including rising energy prices and worker shortages. These have combined to increase the pressures on the food industry.

Recognising the importance of the summit, Jayne Almond, Director of Policy and Corporate Affairs, Food and Drink Federation, said: “There is no better industry than food and drink – from farm to fork – to level up the United Kingdom.

“With a footprint in every constituency, food and drink provides local jobs and makes a significant contribution to the UK’s economic performance. However, supply chain issues and rising costs challenge manufacturers like never before.

“This important summit must consider how we can work together to support our producers and manufacturers, while ensuring UK shoppers continue to get the food and drink they want, at the right price.”

THE PIG SECTOR IS IN MELTDOWN

In what has been a heartbreaking year for the pig sector, Dr Zoe Davies, Chief Executive, National Pig Association, explained that we all need to pull together. She said: “The UK pig sector is still in meltdown as worker shortages continue to impact our ability to process the number of pigs we already have on farms.

“The entire food supply chain and government must pull together and resolve the backlog now, or we will have no independent pig producers left.

“Already 60% of the pork eaten in the UK comes from the EU – it would be a travesty to see this figure increase as more healthy UK pigs are culled on farms and their meat wasted.”

A CLEAR STRATEGY IS NEEDED

Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability, British Retail Consortium, acknowledged how hard food retailers and producers have been working post-Brexit; he explained, “The government needs a coherent food policy to maintain UK production, including a clear strategy for solving labour shortages throughout the supply chain.

“Food retailers and producers are working hard to adapt to a post-Brexit world, ensuring supply chains can continue to deliver quality and affordable food for everyone.”

INCREASING COSTS

Ash Amirahmadi, Managing Director, Arla Foods UK, said that pressure on the supply chain would result in price increases: “The UK food and farming sector is experiencing shortages in a range of areas caused by local and global factors that are putting real pressure on the supply chain, increasing costs and, ultimately, prices.

“The UK is one of the most environmentally competitive beef producers globally.

“We have the opportunity to further enhance this position and become a global leader through improved use of data and technology at farm level and adopting a whole farm approach to sustainable beef production.”

Bob Carnell, Chief Executive, ABP UK, added: “These strains are not going to go away as we work to become even more sustainable and compete for the best people to come into our industry.

“Collaboration between government, the industry and farmers is the only way to address this for the long-term and all of us at Arla are ready to play our part.”

Mr Carnell reiterated the need for a level playing field when comparing British meat to imported meat. He said, “The UK is one of the most environmentally competitive beef producers globally.

“We have the opportunity to enhance this position further and become a global leader through improved use of data and technology at farm level and adopting a whole farm approach to sustainable beef production.

“To help deliver and give UK consumers and other markets access to the best beef in the world, we need to attract and retain more skilled workers from home and abroad and ensure a level playing field for quality British meat when compared to imports.”

ENGAGING WITH GOVERNMENT

The food security summit comes after Minette Batters, and her team met MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum to discuss the important issues ahead for farmers in 2022. The event was sponsored by Fay Jones, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak paid tribute to British agriculture and spoke about the importance of rural communities.

In his remarks, he paid tribute to the work the NFU does in Westminster and on the ground, supporting members across England and Wales.

BUY LOCAL

Mr Sunak encouraged all those attending to buy local and sustainable British produce over the festive period and also spoke about the government’s eight new agri-food and drink attachés – something the NFU has long been lobbying for.

Minette Batters thanked the Chancellor for the government’s support for businesses during the pandemic, which provided a lifeline for many businesses across the food and drink sector.

She reiterated to the Chancellor the importance of maintaining our self-sufficiency in food, the need for the government to support innovation in the sector and the importance of ensuring that the government’s agenda reaches rural areas.Ms Batter concluded: “Whatever the rules post-Christmas, the NFU will continue to work hard to engage with MPs and Peers from all political parties to keep farming at the heart of Westminster.”

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Farming

‘Protect your flocks now, to avoid losing them to avian flu’, says Wales’ Chief Vet

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POULTRY keepers need to take action now to make sure they have biosecurity measures in place to protect their birds, or risk losing their flocks to bird flu, the Chief Vet for Wales, Christianne Glossop, has said in recent days.

The warning has come as the UK as a whole faces its most significant bird flu season ever. Over 50 cases have been recorded to date in kept birds, with three in Wales.

New housing measures were introduced last month to stop the disease from spreading, which means keepers are legally required to keep birds indoors and follow biosecurity measures.*

Wild birds and other wildlife can spread the disease so it is vital to not allow wild birds to mix with chickens, ducks, geese or other birds.

People can also spread the disease on their clothes and shoes so before going into bird enclosures you should wash your hands, and change or clean and disinfect your footwear.

Whilst the main source of infection comes from migratory wild birds, those failing to implement these measures risk infecting their own flocks by walking the virus into their holdings.

The risk to human health from this strain of the avian influenza virus is very low. It is safe to eat poultry meat and eggs as usual.

Wales Chief Veterinary Officer Christianne Glossop said: “We are currently seeing unprecedented levels of bird flu across the UK, and bird keepers must ensure they implement the very highest levels of biosecurity to protect their flocks. This applies whether you have one bird or a large flock.

“Excellent biosecurity if the best thing you can do to protect your birds from this disease. Without it your flocks will be at risk.

“An outbreak of bird flu in a flock is a devastating experience. Please ensure you keep your birds protected and limit the spread of the disease.”

Poultry keepers must do the following:

house or net all poultry and captive birds to keep them separate from wild birds;

  • cleanse and disinfect clothing, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing;
  • where possible change their footwear before entering sheds housing poultry and captive birds. If not, then ensure they are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected;
  • reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control;
  • thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis;
  • keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points; and
  • minimise direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds.
  • We would encourage all keepers to register their birds on the Poultry Register. This is a legal requirement if you have 50 birds or more. Registering with us means that we will be able to contact you with information or action required should an outbreak happen near you.

Do not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that you find. If you find dead swans, geese or ducks or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

To find out more on how to register on the Poultry Register and for the latest information regarding avian influenza visit: www.gov.wales/avian-influenza

To report suspicion of disease in Wales contact 0300 303 8268

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