New Zealand imports, deadweight pricing and common sense decisions were among sheep industry action calls from NFU Cymru’s deputy president, John Davies, at his first meeting of the EU’s High Level Reflection Group of decision makers in Brussels.
Mr Davies, who farms 1,000 ewes at Merthyr Cynog, near Brecon, Powys, was invited to take a seat on the forum established last year by Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, at the height of the lamb price crisis.
The group will look at issues affecting the sheep meat sector and issue recommendations for action by the end of the year.
Europe’s 85 million sheep flock contributes enormously to the economic wellbeing and vitality of rural areas – around €5.2 billion euros last year.
But after last year’s consistently low lamb prices NFU Cymru has been calling for urgent and innovative action to arrest the poor returns seen by many producers, not least challenging the competition from outside the EU.
“New Zealand has a fixed EU quota of 228,000 tonnes, but we believe the move from frozen to fresh and from carcases to bone-in cuts represents a substantive change in the trade since the original agreement in the 1980s - and this change is having an effect on the UK and EU sheep market,” said Mr Davies.
“The EU also needs to set up a clear and transparent deadweight pricing system, ensuring that we have the most accurate market data available.
“A transparent grading and dressing specification system – such as the one which already operates in the beef sector – should be created to ensure we have reliable scrutiny.
“Above all, European policy makers need to prioritise simple common sense and introduce tolerance into inspections system so farmers are not penalised for minor errors such as ear tag reading failures or the odd missing record or tag.”