An industry facing a ’perilous’ future was the worrying message emerging from Tuesday’s inaugural NFU Cymru-staged red meat summit conference in Builth Wells – and not only from a bad Brexit.
While a UK departure from the EU without a meaningful trade deal would have devastating consequences for livestock producers, delegates from across Wales were told that so too would a lack of Government action to recognise Britain’s high quality standards and the growing threat of non-meat diets.
Livestock board chairman, Wyn Evans, pulled no punches, stressing that he feared the Brexit clock was running down with Britain leaving without having secured a trade deal - a completely unacceptable scenario.
“We would see very significant World Trade Organisation tariff rates applied to our exports, immediately pricing us out of our nearest and most valuable export market,” he said.
“In addition, as a third country we would face significant regulatory barriers when exporting to the EU, further eroding our competitive position.”
Mr Evans said Welsh thousands of livestock farmers would enter the busiest time in the farming calendar with the arrival of lambs whose eventual sale would usually make up a sizeable part of farm income.
“But as we spend our days and nights in the lambing shed and out in the fields, we do this in the dark not knowing what markets will be open for these lambs later this year,” he said.
“These concerns are coupled with the Government continuing to veer away from any from of commitment to protect our high standards within the UK Agriculture Bill.
“Our industry produces over 65,000 tons of sheep meat and around 48,000 tons of beef, much of which commands PGI status, and delivers an annual turnover of £1.3 billion.
“A scenario that puts the future of this great and iconic Welsh industry in jeopardy must not be realised,” he added.
“Failure to secure continued, uninterrupted free and frictionless access to our closest and largest export market will have devastating consequences for the fabric and beating heart of rural Wales.”