THE ANNOUNCEMENT made by retailer Aldi to introduce PGI branded Welsh Lamb products in 29 stores in South and West Wales has been welcomed by the Farmers’ Union of Wales, but the Union says more commitment is needed.
The FUW has long urged supermarkets to commit to the procurement of Welsh and British lamb and beef, as well as dairy products, and to ensure prices paid by suppliers or through direct contracts are such that confidence is revived to the extent which is now needed.
FUW Managing Director Alan Davies, who attended the official launch of the product lines on Thursday, October 13 in Cardiff, said: “It is great news that Aldi is joining a wide range of retailers who have already made a commitment to sourcing Welsh PGI lamb and beef. However, we need that commitment to be extended to all retailers, across all stores and producers need to get paid a fair price with fair contracts.
“What is worth noting as well is that we have a huge market here at home for our produce – in light of our exit from the EU, we must make every effort to promote Welsh lamb, beef and dairy products to our home consumers, who offer an addition to export markets.
“The commitment made by Aldi should also serve as a reminder to the Welsh and UK Government to start planning for more sustainable and supportive public procurement policies. Our schools, hospitals, armed forces and all other public services deserve access to the top quality produce that we grow here in Wales, and our farmers and rural economies deserve recognition for what they produce.”
Alan Davies added: “I am renewing our call for immediate action to initiate draft legislation which will mandate the procurement of British produce by the UK public sector and urge those supermarkets and food-outlets who have not made the commitment to British and Welsh produce to do so without delay. This will support rather than spite the sectors which lie at the heart of our rural economies.”
Wyn Evans, NFU Cymru Livestock Board Chairman, said: “This commitment by Aldi to stock PGI Welsh Lamb is very welcome news for the livestock sector in a time of uncertainty ahead of Brexit negotiations. We know we have a great product and story to tell and that our PGI Welsh lamb is the best in the world, so it is encouraging that Aldi has recognised this quality.
“Hopefully this will be the start of a long term relationship between the retailer and Welsh lamb producers and we must aim to build on this positive relationship long into the future.”
Will Barstow, Fresh Meat Buying Director at Aldi UK, said: “We are delighted to be introducing five new Welsh lamb products to our existing fresh lamb category as part of our commitment to farmers and local sourcing. Fresh lamb is a versatile product that can be used all year round and we are confident that the new lines will prove popular with shoppers at our stores in south Wales.
“It’s vital for the Welsh red meat industry that our produce is available in all sectors of the retail industry and Aldi’s market segment has seen remarkable growth, especially in Wales where market share is now over 10%,” explained HCC’s Communications Lead Owen Roberts. “Statistics from market research specialists Kantar Worldpanel show the volume of lamb sold by Aldi increased by nearly 14% over the past year and increasing numbers of their consumers are buying more fresh produce.
“HCC works in partnership, and is in regular dialogue with, all UK retailers and many took part in the summer 2016 HCC-led Welsh lamb campaign. Aldi now joins other multiple retailers like Asda, Co-op, J. Sainsbury, M&S, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose in stocking branded PGI Welsh lamb products,” said Owen. “In addition, quality Welsh Lamb products are also available in many independent retailers and at over 300 members of HCC’s Butchers’ Club,” he added.
Many multiple retailers were emphasising their commitment to quality local produce in their advertising. “This resonates with research carried out by HCC at supermarkets over the summer, which showed that nearly 80% of shoppers were keen to buy more Welsh goods. Welsh lamb is an iconic product whose quality reflects the outstanding natural environment in which it is produced,” said Owen.
Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, said: “Food and drink is a Welsh success story with Welsh lamb at the forefront of our range. I am grateful to Hybu Cig Cymru for all of the work it has carried out to promote this iconic Welsh product.
“I am delighted Aldi will stock premium Welsh lamb in 29 of its stores in South and West Wales. I’m sure it will prove to be hugely popular with customers. Hopefully, this will encourage Aldi to extend the initiative to more of its stores nationwide, which would provide a significant boost to the Welsh lamb trade.”
FUW criticise Assembly Committee
ACCORDING to the FUW, a National Assembly for Wales committee has been misled into making a draconian recommendation that would play into the hands of multi-billion pound telecommunication companies.
The union has also suggested that the committee may have been naive in not identifying the true motives of those advocating such moves.
The National Assembly for Wales’ Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee published a report entitled Digital Infrastructure in Wales, which included a recommendation that ‘The Welsh Government should consider making future public subsidy conditional on supporting government policy to improve digital infrastructure, and to ensure that it meets the needs of consumers in the future, in particular any likely convergence between broadband and mobile internet connectivity.’
Responding to the report in a letter to Committee Chair Russell George AM, Gavin Williams, chairman of the FUW’s Land Use and Parliamentary Committee, said: “The Farmers’ Union of Wales has long been a proponent of increasing both broadband and mobile phone coverage in Wales, and has worked closely with Ofcom and others for more than a decade to highlight the needs of Wales’ communities in terms of both.”
Mr Williams goes on to highlight the fact that the union is unaware of any instances where farmers have refused to enter into a fair agreement with commercial companies responsible for digital infrastructure – but is aware of many cases where agreement has been reached between farmers and communication companies but planning permission has been refused, and of instances where companies have behaved in unacceptable and unprofessional ways in order to try and install communication infrastructure on private land.
“There may well be a handful of cases where landowners have been uncooperative, but we would suggest that members of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee have been misled if they believe this is so widespread that it warrants a draconian recommendation to Government, said Mr Williams.
“Rather, we would suggest that the underlying motive for those who have suggested such a barrier exists at any scale is the wish to boost company profits by seeking changes which would allow farmers and landowners to be bullied into signing contracts which do not represent the commercial nature of work and installations.”
Mr Williams concludes his letter by saying, “We share the Committee’s frustrations regarding barriers to broadband and mobile coverage, but find it wholly unacceptable that a National Assembly for Wales committee has been led to believe – some would say naively – that it would be desirable to see multi-billion pound commercial companies boosting their profits by forcing family farms to accept one-sided agreements that in no way reflect the commercial nature of mobile and broadband infrastructure.”
Lynx trial decision near
THE NATIONAL SHEEP ASSOCIATION (NSA) is concerned to hear rumours that Secretary of State for the Environment Michael Gove may be prepared to fast-track a decision on lynx release.
It is calling on representative farming bodies and individuals to unite and take action to voice unanimous concerns over the proposals.
NSA is aware the Lynx UK Trust is continuing its campaign work while the application is considered, and feels it is essential Mr Gove appreciates the substantial and widespread concerns rural communities have around the proposed lynx release.
Lynx became extinct in the UK around 1,300 year ago.
The medium-sized cats can grow to around 1.3m, are apex predators in their environments, and hunt by ambush in forest habitats.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, said: “I know Mr Gove is interested in these proposals and I am certain now is the time for individual farmers, land managers and their representative organisations to make their feelings heard. I would go as far as urging every farmer who has views over this to write to the Secretary of State so he can appreciate the strength of stakeholder concerns, which go way beyond the losses that will be suffered by sheep farmers.”
A verdict on whether lynx should be released in Kielder Forest, Northumberland, is still pending after Lynx UK Trust submitted a formal application to Natural England earlier this year. The Government advisory body is currently reviewing information, and is expected to announce a decision in the coming months.
The Trust has also asked landowners in Wales if they would be happy to allow lynx to roam their properties and its chief scientific advisor, Dr Paul O’Donoghue, claims that five Welsh landowners have expressed an interest in lynx being placed on their land.
Dr O’Donoghue said in Europe, the kill rate was 0.4 sheep per lynx per year.
Mr Stocker continued: “The risks to landscape and wildlife, heavily invested in for years, are real. Alongside disease and welfare risks, coupled with concerns around whether any lynx population could be genetically sustainable on our heavily populated island. This of course in addition to the resultant losses and stress on farmers.
“It is not a simple matter of a compensation package putting everything right. We know from sheep farmers in Finland, Norway and elsewhere that losses go way beyond those predicted. I simply cannot accept that the conscious release of a high-level predator is compatible with the high level of animal welfare expected of British farmers.”
The Lynx UK Trust has announced an agreement with Lloyds Syndicate ARK Speciality Programs, which they say will insure the entire sheep population against lynx attacks throughout the period of a trial – if it goes ahead.
Brexit trade agreement attacked by US
AN ADVANCE in the Brexit negotiations between the European Union and the UK Government has been rejected by the US Government and other major agricultural exporters.
EU negotiators had reached a tentative agreement with the UK to establish a single approach to dividing up their relationship with other members of the World Trade Organization post-Brexit.
At the moment, the UK is a joint member of the WTO with the other 27 EU members.
The British economy accounts for about 16 percent of the EU economy but its share of EU imports from other WTO countries at preferential tariffs varies according to products.
As the UK quits the EU in 2019, it will need to separate out its share of the EU’s overall quotas for farm goods that can be imported from countries such as New Zealand and Australia.
According to Reuters, neither the remaining EU states nor Britain want to have to accept greater quantities of low- or zero-duty farm imports from the rest of the world to avoid increasing competition for their own producers. But determining where such goods currently end up being consumed inside the EU customs union is problematic.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “We have come to an agreement on the methodology of splitting EU quotas as we move forward,”
The Cabinet Minister described the agreement as ‘a step in the right direction’, but not a final agreement.
However, the agreement reached on quotas has been rejected by seven members of the WTO, including the USA.
Those signing a joint letter objecting to the agreement are US, Canada, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Thailand.
The letter from the objectors states they were not consulted and the deal would disrupt “the delicate balance of concessions and entitlements that is fundamental to the global trade architecture today.”
It continues: “We are aware of media reports suggesting the possibility of a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union 27 countries about splitting Tariff Relief Quotas based on historical averages,
“We would like to record that such an outcome would not be consistent with the principle of leaving other WTO members no worse off, nor fully honour the existing TRQ access commitments.
“Thus, we cannot accept such an agreement.”
A spokesperson for the UK Government promised to coordinate with the complainants: “The UK wants to ensure a smooth transition which minimizes the disruption to our trading relationships with other WTO members and tariff rate quotas are one of the issues that we are discussing with the EU, and with WTO members.”
But New Zealand’s Deputy Trade Secretary tweeted: “Sorry that key partners assume a deal they strike between them will suit the rest of the world.”
And the US Government said: “Ensuring that US exporters of food and agricultural products have the market access in Europe due to them even after Brexit is a high priority for the administration.”
In a response to Brexit, exporters to the EU will want to redress what they regard as an imbalance in quotas by seeking larger export quotas for their own goods. That move could spell disaster for UK farmers, as goods could be dumped on to the UK market, potentially pushing already pressed British farmers out of business.
The British-EU proposal is expected to be debated during the WTO’s week of agricultural talks later this month and at the WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires in December.
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