Working effectively to create a sustainable farming sector is only possible if the industry, retailers and Government works together – that’s the message that NFU President Meurig Raymond took to the Royal Welsh Show yesterday.
Mr Raymond said that the key to the country’s success in the global marketplace, must see Governments in Cardiff and Westminster implement a robust food plan to reverse long-term declines in farming productivity and the nation’s self-sufficiency.
“The NFU are working with Westminster and Cardiff Governments and others in the food supply chain to make this a reality. We need to focus on what Governments can put in place now to build our capacity for the future. We must increase the productive potential of farming to stimulate investment, help farmers manage market volatility and ensure that the drive to increase British food production is at the heart of each Government. We need Governments that will champion farming and give us the tools to invest to become more competitive, more efficient and carry that message to Europe and beyond.
“I know the medium and long term outlook for our industry is positive. But at the moment it’s a real struggle for many farmers, no more than in the dairy sector where 450 producers have left in the past year. Many dairy farmers are getting paid far below the cost of production – some as little as 15p per litre for their milk – which is shocking. Communication and transparency is the key for all milk suppliers. Too often there is no communication whatsoever, just a letter in the post to announce another cut and that’s not good enough.
“The same is true in the lamb market where the farmers’ share of the retail price has fallen from 58 per cent to 44 per cent over the past year while the consumer price has fallen marginally, but not nearly as much as the farmgate price. Someone in the chain is profiting at the expense of those at both ends and the NFU is doing all it can to find out who.
“Above all lamb producers need clear market signals to give them greater long term confidence which in turn delivers a secure supply of great British lamb. They also need commitments from the retailers. The gold standard for retailers on lamb sourcing is Morrisons and Aldi who already sell 100 per cent fresh, British lamb all year round.
“It’s not all bad news. We’ve seen Asda reaffirm its commitment to UK lamb producers by switching many of its fresh lamb lines to 100 per cent UK sourced from mid-July. They’re not on a par with the likes of Morrison or Aldi, but it’s progress. And Aldi have made a commitment to UK growers by making the ‘Fruit and Veg Pledge’ – a move the NFU instigated. Fairness, certainty and stability are the core values within that pledge.
“If the UK agri-food sector is to be the economic powerhouse that we all want it to be and for it to move into one of those key players in the global market, we need to all work together. We need a fairer distribution of the risks and rewards ahead. If we can do that, I do believe that we will build the confidence that farmers desperately need in the short term, to be able to invest for the long term.”