Mr Thomas-Symonds, who is the Labour MP for Torfaen, was hosted by NFU Cymru Glamorgan County Chairman Jonathan Huntley and family. Also in attendance were NFU Cymru President Aled Jones and Deputy President Abi Reader.
Investment in the farming business
Jonathan was able to talk through the investments the family are currently making to ensure there are opportunities for the next generation of Huntleys to continue the farming enterprise.
On the recent announcements of trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, Jonathan said: “I am extremely proud of the quality and standards to which we produce food here in Wales, in our case that being top quality PGI Welsh Lamb and Beef. Producing to these high standards does, however, come at a cost. I want to ensure that looking to the future our ability to continue to offer the consumer great tasting, high quality climate friendly Welsh beef and lamb is not undermined from the importation of vast amounts of product from countries who, as a result of different regulatory requirements, land availability and climatic conditions, have a cost base vastly lower than our own.
Lack of safeguards
“I am concerned at the apparent lack of any meaningful safeguards in the details of the trade deals we have seen so far. It appears vast amounts of beef and lamb will be allowed into the UK with limited scope for the UK Government to intervene if this is causing damage to domestic food production.
“The true cost of these deals may not be known for some years to come, my concern is the impact that this could have for the next generation of Welsh farmers. Currently we know there is huge demand for protein in Asia as result of African Swine fever in China. Australia and New Zealand are currently heavily invested in supplying these markets but we know that that things can change relatively quickly and a diversion of product into the UK could have major repercussions for our farming systems.”
NFU Cymru President Aled Jones highlighted the importance of Parliamentarians having a greater say in Trade negotiations. He said: “The provisions in place for Parliamentarians to input into the trade negotiation process are weak and inadequate. I am very much of the mind that there needs to be a stronger role for MPs, and indeed stakeholders such as NFU Cymru, in setting negotiating mandates, and the ongoing scrutiny of trade negotiations. There also need to be proper provisions around trade remedies and again I see a vital role for our politicians in terms of putting these in place.
Additional agricultural attachés
“Exports of agri-food products are important to Wales. Our farmers are very proud of the food they produce and are anxious to maintain and grow existing export markets and also sell their produce into new markets. Some trade agreements may offer opportunities for Wales. I am pleased that in recent months we have seen the announcement of additional agricultural attachés in our overseas embassies, but I would like to see more and adequate funding available to allow Welsh and UK produce to be able to capitalise on new export market opportunities.”
Aled Jones concluded: “We would very much like to thank the Huntley family for hosting the visit. I’d also like to thank the Shadow Secretary of State for an extremely constructive meeting on farm to listen to our concerns, but also to hear where we felt there were opportunities to improve the scrutiny process around the agreement of trade deals and what needs to be put in place to allow Welsh farmers to be able to capitalise on new export opportunities.”