At the inaugural NFU Cymru Red Meat Summit on Tuesday 5th February, the Union’s Livestock Board Chairman, Wyn Evans, warned farmers that the continued threat of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal leaves the sector in a ‘perilous position’ ahead of Brexit.
Addressing attendees at the ‘Welsh Red Meat Sector in a Global Marketplace’ event at the Royal Welsh Showground, Mr Evans stressed that farmers are being ‘left in the dark’ over the nature of the UK’s future trading relationship with the European Union.
The NFU Cymru Red Meat Summit saw experts from the red meat supply chain, Welsh farming industry and the processing, marketing, retail and food service sectors analysing the opportunities that exist to promote Welsh produce to the wider world, as well as the potential challenges posed by Brexit.
Mr Evans said: “In Wales we have a fantastic red meat industry with some of the most committed, dedicated and professional farmers in the world producing safe, quality affordable food for the consumer at home and abroad. But we cannot ignore the perilous position the ongoing political uncertainty leaves us in just a few short weeks away from our scheduled departure from the EU.
“In these next few weeks my family, like many thousands of others across Wales, will be preparing for and entering the busiest time in our farming calendar, with the arrival of lambs whose eventual sale would usually make up a sizeable part of our 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.
“We are very late on in the Article 50 process. Last week, a majority of MPs voted to send the Prime Minister back to Brussels to attempt to renegotiate her Brexit deal and seek binding changes. The language coming out of Europe has made it pretty clear that they are not prepared to renegotiate what was agreed at the end of last year and I am concerned that we will end up wasting more time at what is an absolutely critical stage.
“My real fear is that we will see the clock run down and we will depart the EU without having secured a trade deal. For NFU Cymru a ‘No deal’ scenario is completely unacceptable. Under such a scenario we would see very significant WTO tariff rates applied to our exports, immediately pricing us out of our nearest and most valuable export market. In addition, as a third country we would face significant regulatory barriers when exporting to the EU, further eroding our competitive position.
“These concerns are coupled with Government continuing to veer away from any form of commitment to protect our high standards within the UK Agriculture Bill. Welsh farmers hold very real fears that those in Westminster whose desire is to secure a quick trade deal will do so at the expense of Welsh agriculture by opening our markets to produce that falls well short of the high welfare, food safety and environmental standards exercised here in Wales.
“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.
“NFU Cymru calls on all our politicians to come together for the good of the country and secure continued uninterrupted free and frictionless access to our closest and largest export market. Failure to deliver this will have devastating consequences for the fabric and beating heart of rural Wales.”