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Farming

Balance essential to ensure food security

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HCC Chief Executive Gwyn Howells addressed a Committee of Senedd Members last week. 

He delivered a stark warning about the challenges of finding the middle ground in future policy which would enable consumers to enjoy a secure source of sustainably-produced food.

The Senedd’s Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee was hearing from agricultural experts on the possible impacts of the new Free Trade Agreements with Australia.

Politicians heard that the UK farming sector was concerned that the trade deals which had been struck with two of the most significant red meat exporting countries had the potential to distort the domestic market.

The UK Government’s Impact Assessment of the Australian Free Trade Agreement estimates that the value of the domestic agriculture sector could reduce by £94million, in favour of increased opportunities for manufacturing and other industries.

In his evidence, Gwyn Howells emphasised that sustainability and food security had to be taken into account.

“It may be short-sighted to be increasing food imports from across the world, which may be produced to lower standards than our food, when at the same time we’re rightly pushing for sustainability,” he said.

“It’s an anomaly that while sustainability is rightly driving future food and farming policy, there’s little discussion of food security,” said Gwyn. “It’s essential to count the carbon cost of food imported, allowing for the different production systems in other countries and the cost of transportation.”

Gwyn added, “In Wales we have one of the most sustainable red meat agriculture sectors anywhere in the world. We need to find a policy sweet spot in the middle between producing food which drives economic activity and at the same time doing it in a sustainable way.”

The evidence session also discussed likely trade flows over the coming years. Gwyn Howells said that while there were no immediate increases in import volumes from Australia, there were long-term trends that caused concern.

“Currently, production in Australia is low due to droughts, but livestock levels are forecast to rise in the coming years,” he said. “It’s true that significant exports from Australia and New Zealand are going to Asia at the moment, but that could change due to political circumstances, and there’s little future-proofing in these new trade deals for UK farmers.”

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Farming

Bale danger warning for Welsh farmers issued by agricultural expert

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AN AGRICULTURAL expert is urging farmers across the country to safeguard lives – and livelihoods – when working with hay and straw bales.

“With barn activity increasing during the winter months, following safety guidelines is paramount,” said Freddie Hamilton-Russell, of rural insurance broker Lycetts.

According to the Health and Safety Executive1, 20 per cent of all agricultural deaths in 2021/22 were due to people being struck by an object, with hay bales being a leading cause.

“In addition to the risks of fatal accidents, failure to observe the stipulated stack and distance limits for haystacks could invalidate insurance cover,” Hamilton-Russell said.

“If stack limits are contravened, such as being too close together, too high or undervalued, farmers face significant shortfalls in the event of loss, such as accidental fire or arson.

“It is imperative that farmers find out if there is a haystack limit defined by value rather than volume. If, for example, a stack with £60,000 worth of hay catches fire, there is a strong chance it exceeds the limit. Often there are distance limits written into policies too, which is usually 20 metres, but this can vary.

“The best way to comply with the terms of a policy is to split stacks and keep them in different locations but checking the policy wording should be the first port of call.

“The stakes are too high and are certainly not worth the gamble.”

Hamilton-Russell also highlighted the critical role of risk management in mitigating the chances of fire.

An abundance of combustible materials, threat of arson, risk of electrical faults in buildings and overheating in machinery are just some of the fire risks farmers face daily.

Hamilton-Russell added: “It can be expensive to replace produce needed to feed livestock through the winter so ensure appropriate insurance is in place for this eventuality.

“We’ve encountered incidents of straw being stored in sheds that have been set alight and both the straw and shed have been underinsured.

To mitigate the risk of spontaneous fires he recommends simple measures, such as ensuring there are no naked bulbs or misplaced glass or mirrors near to haystacks, the installation of sufficient and accessible on-site fire extinguishers and having water bowsers nearby.

“Another risk to consider is that of children gaining entry to a barn and playing among the bales. They could suffer serious – or even fatal – injuries should bales fall.

“Keeping buildings locked and securing and maintaining perimeters can prevent unauthorised entry by children or arsonists.

“Risk management is an often overlooked aspect of farming but taking the necessary precautions can help prevent accidents and financial losses.”

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Farming

Pembrokeshire Politicians Tuck into a Farmers Breakfast

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PEMBROKESHIRE Senedd Members Paul Davies and Samuel Kurtz joined local farmers and farming representatives for a breakfast to celebrate the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW)’s Farmhouse Breakfast Week 2023. Mr Davies and Mr Kurtz attended the breakfast event in Crundale to champion the benefits of a healthy breakfast and meet with local farmers to discuss the challenges currently facing the sector.

Mr Davies said, “It’s always a pleasure to attend the annual Farmhouse Breakfast and this year was no exception. I’ve always proudly supported Pembrokeshire’s produce and today was another excellent showcase of what our local farmers have on offer. We had some very interesting discussions and I’ll certainly be doing all I can to push the Welsh Government to better support our farmers as its Agriculture Bill makes its way through the Senedd. I’d also like to encourage the people of Pembrokeshire to support Farmhouse Breakfast Week too by buying local produce and enjoying a healthy Pembrokeshire breakfast – there’s plenty of excellent produce on offer, please take advantage and help support our farmers.”

Samuel Kurtz MS, local Senedd Member for Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire, added:

“Farming is often an isolated industry, and so the FUW’s Farmhouse Breakfast morning in Crundale Hall presented the perfect opportunity to get everyone together, in one room, talking and socialising.

“From council farm tenants to fourth-generation cattle farmers, everyone was brought round the table to taste some fantastic locally sourced produce.

“It was great to be there supporting the FUW and the DPJ Foundation, a fantastic charity that operates across the country, supporting those in agriculture and rural communities with their mental health.”

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Farming

Managing Director for new Pembrokeshire creamery announced

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PEMBROKESHIRE CREAMERY LTD, the West Wales-based business currently building a new state of the art liquid milk processing facility in Haverfordwest, has appointed Mark McQuade as managing director.

Mark brings extensive dairy industry experience from previous roles as operations director of McQueen’s Dairy, national accounts director of Muller Wiseman Dairies and as an executive board director of First Milk.

Pembrokeshire Creamery Ltd will have the capacity to bottle more than a million litres of milk a week in its initial phase and gives UK supermarkets the opportunity to offer their Welsh customers milk that is both sourced and bottled in Wales rather than being driven to England for processing which is currently the case.

By removing the need for Welsh milk to be transported to bottling plants in England, Pembrokeshire Creamery will be able to reduce food miles, increase supply chain efficiency, create new skilled jobs and support local farming communities.

Mark commented: “I am very excited to be joining the team in Pembrokeshire. We aim to be the only BRC Certified facility to offer Welsh milk that is also bottled in Wales, and as such, the new facility has huge potential. I know from having worked with Pembrokeshire dairy farmers in previous roles that this is a fantastic milk field in which to build an authentically Welsh milk supply for Welsh supermarket stores.”

Huw Thomas, CEO of Puffin Produce and Pembrokeshire Creamery board member added:

“We are delighted that Mark has agreed to join Pembrokeshire Creamery as he brings with him rich industry knowledge and experience which will help accelerate our growth ambitions.”

Construction work began in November and the plant will be fully operational by the Autumn of 2023.

Pembrokeshire Creamery Ltd has also announced a multi-million pound contract with Sycamore Process Engineering to design, manufacture and install the milk processing equipment.

Paul Manning, project director at Sycamore Process Engineering said: “We bring more than 30 years of experience in the dairy, food, and beverage industry and a strong focus on sustainability, ensuring our process solutions are energy efficient, and promoting the best OPEX with minimal product wastage. We’re working closely with Pembrokeshire Creamery to develop a top of line processing facility which meets their current needs and can expand with them as the business grows in future.”

Other businesses contracted to the construction phase include DKAN for ground works, Morgans of Usk for the steel frame and ABS Elbrow for cladding.

The development of Pembrokeshire Creamery has been supported by the Welsh Government and the EU RDP-funded Food Business Investment Scheme. Additional funding has been supplied by HSBC.

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