FUW meeting highlights concerns over lamb prices and levy split

A Farmers’ Union of Wales meeting between farmers and two of Wales’ major meat processors regarding the fall in lamb prices has highlighted the need for a fairer red meat levy distribution system as well as numerous other frustrations.

During the meeting held at Welshpool mart on Tuesday (September 15), Dunbia’s senior livestock buyer Wyn Williams and 2 Sisters Food Group industry development manager Peter Morris spoke about the range of factors which had led to a severe fall in lamb prices over recent months.

“Farmers were then given the opportunity to question the speakers and raise numerous concerns,” said FUW Montgomery county chairman Mark Williams, who chaired the meeting.

“One key frustration was the fact that the ability to market Welsh lamb in order to benefit farmers is severely reduced because of the unfair way in which a large proportion of Welsh farmers levy payments go over the border to England.”

Under the current system levies collected from farmers and processors in countries in which animals are slaughtered are made to those countries’ meat promotion bodies – HCC in Wales; Quality Meat Scotland in Scotland; and the English Beef and Lamb Executive and British Pig Executive in England.

“This means that Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales’ levy funding does not come close to reflecting the number of animals born and raised in Wales,” said Mr WIlliams.

It is estimated that the closure of the Vion plant at Gaerwen in 2013 led to a drop of around £500,000 in HCC’s red meat levy funding, while the closure of a pork processing facility in Scotland in 2012 had a similarly detrimental impact on Quality Meat Scotland.

“Marketing Welsh produce is critical to farmgate prices and farm incomes, and there was huge anger at the way in which levy money paid on Welsh animals is being taken away from us.”

Mr Williams said there were a host of other concerns, and real anger regarding the presence of New Zealand lamb on supermarket shelves, particularly over the summer, and the policies of some of the major retailers.

“It was acknowledged that there are a host of issues which undermine lamb prices which we cannot influence, such as the Sterling-Euro exchange rate, but that more work was needed in those areas where changes were possible, including product development and addressing the imbalance in terms of demand for different cuts.”

Widespread frustration was expressed regarding the slow progress being made in terms of getting Welsh produce into the US market, with farmers calling for a more proactive approach as seen in the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking after the meeting, FUW president Glyn Roberts said the concerns raised reflected longstanding campaigns and ongoing lobbying by the FUW.

“We have been lobbying for fairer levy distribution for a decade and I sincerely hope there is now light at the end of the tunnel.

“We also need to see changes to the regulations on carcass splitting which is scientifically unjustified and severely undermines the prices we receive.

“Alongside such moves, it is imperative that the Rural Development Programme is directed towards making farms more efficient and profitable at a time when farm incomes have fallen to their lowest for over a decade and the wider rural economy is beginning to suffer as a result.”

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