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LAMMA 2021

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Farming matters: Huw Davies - 'We must build trust between farmers and consumers'

As a lamb producer, I absolutely want to thank the British consumer for their recent support.

Huw Davies - Senior farming consultant at AgriWebb, non-executive director at HCC and sheep farmer at Llandre.
Huw Davies - Senior farming consultant at AgriWebb, non-executive director at HCC and sheep farmer at Llandre.

The domestic sale of lamb for the four-week period to December 27, 2020, reached £68 million, up 14 per cent on 2019.

 

Last year was a record year with British consumers spending 10.8 per cent more than the previous year on our product.

 

That said, we experienced veganuary, where well-meaning but often misinformed consumers change their diets.

 

All too often this involves opting for the likes of soya, lentils and avocados, which are flown in from far away countries.

 

How I wish these individuals would read the recent Hybu Cig Cymru publication, ’The Welsh Way’, which highlights the economic and cultural importance of red meat production to Wales and the positive environmental benefits that agriculture supports.

 

The report addresses the role of agriculture in the emission of greenhouse gases and the conclusions presented align with what I once heard at a workshop at the University of Oxford, where it was made clear that greenhouse gases are not always bad.

 

Their presence in the atmosphere is essential as plants need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis; plants in turn provide food and oxygen for animals and humans.

 

Changing

 

The trouble is, of course, that the amount of greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere is higher than it would be naturally and this is changing the world’s climate.

 

Governments use the Global Warming Potential 100 (GWP) index to measure the combined effect of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane on global warming.

 

The academic I heard is developing a GWP index which can accurately measure the different effects of individual gases instead.


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So why is this significant for us as farmers? Carbon dioxide, emitted from burning fossil fuels, has a very long lifetime and is cumulative, while methane – the main gas released from primary production – has a 12-year lifetime and does not accumulate.

 

It can be part of an acceptable equilibrium and you do not need to get methane down to net zero, which is the aim for carbon dioxide.

 

Of course, we should aim to reduce methane emissions by improving agricultural productivity, however, with this new GWP we will be able to present evidence which counteracts many of the myths put out there by globetrotting, carbon dioxide emitting so-called environmentalists.

 

As we are expected to reduce our environmental impact, the report highlights the link to improved agricultural productivity and on-farm efficiencies.

 

Technology is playing an increasing role in this area and farmers are using bespoke cloud-based agricultural software to maintain their records for legislative and crucially performance management reasons.

 

For this to be possible, you either need a mobile signal or decent broadband. Both ideally.

 

I have been fortunate to travel to countries like Russia, China and Kosovo. There, I was never out of signal or without high-speed broadband. This is definitely not my daily experience in the Cothi valley and in many other parts of Wales.

 

For the last three years, there has been a coil of fibre optic cable on the telegraph post closest to our house, which I assume is connected at the other end to our local exchange at Pumsaint, Carmarthenshire.

 

Incredibly, the Welsh Government has paid for the installation of the cable within yards of our house, but when will the final connection be made?

 

When will rural businesses be allowed to flourish, putting us on an equal footing with both our urban counterparts and other countries around the world?

 

It’s a triangle of trust: we farmers must have the means to enhance productivity; we must achieve an environmentally balanced level of methane; and the British consumer must understand the reality behind their food choices.

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