THE CRISIS facing beef producers and the lack of opportunities for young farmers seeking to enter the industry were the major issues discussed by an influential panel at the recent FUW Carmarthenshire county annual general meeting.
The panel comprised FUW Ceredigion county chairman and Fferm Ffactor judge Aled Rees, former Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Adam Price, Ffermio presenter Meinir Jones and FUW younger voice for farming committee chairman Darren Williams. During a lively question and answer session FUW life member Evan R Thomas asked the panel if enough is being done to support young entrants into the farming community. Miss Jones said young entrants are integral to the sustainability of the industry. But with land prices and the cost of purchasing stock and equipment very high it is almost impossible for youngsters to step onto the farming ladder. Grants are very limited and do not take into account the interest on loans required to initiate a venture. She compared the situation with France where interest-free loans are available for machinery and believed whatever help is provided initially should be continued for a number of years. Mr Williams believed there was very little opportunity for those wishing to enter farming to do so. He would welcome greater tax incentives for retiring farmers to enable them to rent out their farms to new entrants. Mr Price said devolution has played a significant part in assisting young entrants into farming but believes more could be done. He stated that interest in farming courses has increased and this should prove there is genuine interest in pursuing a career in this demanding industry. With greater demand for sustainability and for food products increasing he sees a good future for the industry. Mr Rees said the Welsh Government’s Young Entrants Support Scheme was good but felt the available funds should be used to buy stock. He stated there were still opportunities for farming entrepreneurs as money was relatively cheaper to borrow compared to years ago and he believed there should be incentives for farmers to retire to provide land for new entrants. Carmarthenshire delegate on the union’s agricultural education and training committee Lyn Thomas asked: “Having regained confidence in the beef industry following the horsemeat scandal, have supermarkets turned away from British meat by importing from other countries?” Miss Jones said it appears they are now turning to other areas for meat imports which is crippling the industry. In Ireland a foods and agricultural minister endeavours to ensure Irish market is competitive for Irish producers. The Irish market appears to be producing more than they need and is competing with the Polish market for the British market. Mr Williams believed the strong pound against the euro is working against the beef price. Some supermarkets were still supporting British beef but traceability of food products is still debatable. Mr Rees felt the Irish market should not just be feared for beef but, with deregulation of milk, this may have an adverse effect on milk production. He considered one of the biggest factors in beef and sales of beef products was due to the fact that most abattoirs are owned by Irish businesses who can obviously chose who they get their meat from. He believed this should be reviewed. With CAP reform and modulation reducing the Welsh producer’s income by 15 per cent, against zero per cent in Ireland, this will lead to potentially an unfair market. Mr Price called for more proactive leadership to make people listen. The Welsh Government needs to ensure that Welsh Beef, not its competitors, is supported. In public procurement in Ireland 88 per cent is won by Irish companies but he did not consider this is the case in Wales. He believes the public should be supporting local produce and efforts should be made to ensure this continues.