NFU Cymru & BMPA: Poor ag policy plans could destroy red meat sector

NFU Cymru and the BMPA (British Meat Processing Association) have voiced their shared concerns over Brexit’s potential impact on the red meat sector in Wales in a joint letter to Welsh Assembly Members.

Outlining the importance of the Welsh food sector to the Welsh economy, NFU Cymru and BMPA state that Brexit is the “single biggest challenge facing the red meat sector within Wales”.

The two organisations have called on the Welsh Government to carry out a thorough impact assessment on the long-term impact of the proposed withdrawal of support payments.

As part of the letter to Welsh AMs, the two organisations have drawn together a shared set of agreed policy principles that will be essential to safeguarding the red meat sector in Wales:

  • EU Trade: It is essential that the UK maintains a free and frictionless trading relationship with the EU with no tariffs or non-tariff barriers;
  • Non-EU Trade: There are opportunities for the red meat sector beyond the EU – most notably a growing demand for protein from Asia – however, any future trade deals do need to be handled carefully. This must take into account the implication on domestic food production.
  • Labour: The red meat processing sector is wholly reliant on EU labour and whilst committed to recruiting domestically, the reality is that over 60% of employees are from the EU. A failure to devise a system that allows us access to labour will have a serious impact on domestic production levels.
  • Domestic Agricultural Policy: Both organisations remain extremely concerned about the lack of focus on production in the current policy proposals and the omission of stability measures that underpin Wales’ productive capacity.

The letter, which coincided with the start of the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Llanelwedd, states: “The industry is presently facing huge uncertainty.

“As such, we would urge Government to pause and carry out a thorough impact assessment on the long-term impact of the withdrawal of support payments for the active food producing family farm and the knock-on effects to the processing sector and the rural communities that rely so heavily on this production base.

“The red meat industry – whether it be primary producers or the processing sector – is hugely proud of its contribution to Wales and we are ambitious for the future.

“However, we need to be absolutely clear that without an agricultural policy that has production at its heart and enables farmers to continue to provide the highest quality livestock, the very future and viability of our farming and processing sectors and the people that rely on it are in doubt.

“NFU Cymru and the BMPA are committed to working in partnership with Welsh Government to develop a bold and ambitious policy that enables us to grow the volume and value of produce sold in the UK retail and food service sector, expand our reach in export markets and increase the amount of Welsh meat procured by the public sector.”