It would be a "disastrous own goal" if the next round of international trade deals drove UK customers to buy less sustainable alternatives to Welsh red meat, Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) chair, Catherine Smith, has warned.
Smith spoke to industry representatives at the HCC breakfast to launch the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show at Llanelwedd.
“Let’s stand firm against introducing lower environmental and welfare standards through hasty trade deals”
“It would be economically foolish, morally wrong and globally irresponsible to drive UK customers to buy less sustainable alternatives.
"It’s effectively exporting our emissions and, as UK government officials have admitted, is also likely to reduce employment in domestic farming.
“Failure to do this would, in football terms, be a disastrous own goal.”
Smith said her challenge to trade negotiators at the next round of talks - with countries in the Middle East, India and Canada - was to get a deal which is good for our own farmers, who kept nutritious food on our table during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Global food shortages and international supply chain disruption have re-focussed attention on food security.
"This is absolutely the right time to celebrate the benefits of producing high-quality food close to home,” she said.
Smith added that the industry was facing worrying uncertainties, including the repercussions of the war in Ukraine, which was exposing fragilities that already existed in our global supply chains.
“We are at a tipping point for what could be permanent change. Our responses have to be built from within; how to take Wales’ farming success story to the next level.
“We have solutions. We can all be hugely proud of The Welsh Way of sustainable production – our non-intensive system of producing high-quality protein on marginal land.
"It has set a high water mark, below which some of the world’s intensive farming systems find themselves falling fathoms short.”
She said lamb and beef production in Wales, according to independent research, was already much lower in terms of emissions than most other countries and the Red Meat Development Programme and other HCC projects were trialling ways to further cut emissions, reduce waste, store more carbon and regenerate soils.
“These new practices could become instrumental in meeting the ambitions of the Welsh government’s new Sustainable Farming Scheme – and we can do all this without cutting food production, because reducing production is a short-term response that would deal significant long-term detrimental consequences."