Lamb to the slaughter?
THE global appetite for Welsh lamb has reached an all-time high—last year, exports hit £110 million, a third of the country’s food and drink exports total, which has risen by a fifth in one year, with 30,000 tons of lamb being shipped out to more than 40 countries. As such, the issue of contention at last week’s Royal Welsh Show was the need for ‘sensible discussion’ over Wales retaining its freedom to negotiate its own policies after Brexit.
As First Minister Carwyn Jones comments, ‘we cannot have a Defra minister negotiating on behalf of Welsh farming without their consent’.
At the event, Welsh Environment Secretary Lesley Griffiths, who has warned that farming is at risk of ‘being put back decades’ by Brexit, voiced her concerns over the UK’S proposed Withdrawal Bill, its need for a redraft and the ‘lack of engagement [and understanding of] Welsh farmers’.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove attests that leaving the EU will be beneficial to this hugely successful industry, providing it with ‘new opportunities to grow and flourish’. Although their meeting at the show was termed ‘constructive’, Mrs Griffiths was left in need of more substantial information that could be passed on to farmers, who fear the continuing uncertainty is damaging their industry. The general message from Government is that still more time is needed to develop a Uk-wide legal framework for matters such as trade, animal health and farm subsidies.
‘We all recognise that Brexit is going to be difficult,’ admits Alan Davies of the Farmers’ Union of Wales. ‘We’re even trying to plan something when we don’t know what the end-game in terms of access is going to be. Over and above that, we’ve got a lot of political arguing going on and we must cut though that. We expect our politicians to create some sort of framework to allow sensible decision-making and sensible discussion as soon as possible.’
The news follows concern over the future market for British beef in the UK voiced by the NFU and others, as the industry considers the threat of potentially cheap imports from countries such as the USA with less stringent animal welfare and environmental standards (Town & Country, July 19).
The American way came under fire again last week, when Mr Gove gave chlorine-washed chicken from the USA a firm ‘no’, contradicting International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (Agromenes, page 31). ‘We are not going to dilute our high food-safety standards or our high environmental standards in pursuit of any trade deal,’ he says.