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.”
Devolution must be respected
IN RESPONSE to a UK Government white paper on internal markets, the Farmers’ Union of Wales has stressed the importance of protecting Welsh farmers against unfair competition from other parts of the UK and countries across the globe, and that Welsh devolution must be respected.
In his introduction to the UK Internal Market White Paper, Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, highlights how increasing differences between rules and standards applied by different Governments in the UK’s four nations after Brexit could cause market distortion, discrimination and unfair competition for businesses in a way not seen for hundreds of years.
The White Paper, therefore, proposes measures to prevent such impacts based on the principles of ‘non-discrimination’ and ‘mutual recognition’
FUW Head of Policy, Dr Nick Fenwick said: “We are glad the UK Government has woken up to the need to take this issue seriously as it has previously been kicked into the long grass because it is so politically contentious.”
Dr Fenwick said that the FUW had been highlighting the need to address this issue since the EU Referendum in 2016, and in July 2018 the FUW had published a detailed paper considering the matter entitled ‘Filling the Void – Steps towards a post-Brexit UK policy framework’.
“While we welcome the UK Government’s recognition of this issue, we are extremely concerned at the suggestion that rules could simply be dictated by London, rather than there being a means by which to reach agreement between UK Governments.”
Dr Fenwick said such a move could undermine devolution and work to the disadvantage of Welsh farmers.
“The consideration of such matters in a White Paper within months of the end of the Withdrawal Agreement period gives us very little time to hold proper detailed discussions and introduce the type of structures and bodies we truly need to make recommendations, enforce regulations, arbitrate on matters etc. in a way that is fair.”
“It also gives us very little time to sort out what are huge constitutional issues which also happen to be crucial to the running of Welsh businesses,” he added.
In response to the White Paper, the Union further stressed that while the UK Government is right to recognise the dangers of direct and indirect discrimination, unfair competition, market distortion and other issues that could arise within the GB/UK internal market, it should also recognise that the same issue exists across international borders.
“Given the current trade negotiations with the EU and USA, for example, the UK Government should also recognise the likelihood of such adverse impacts occurring as a result of inappropriate or ill-considered trade deals which expose us to different standards or unfair competition,” said Dr Fenwick.
“This is a particular concern with regard to agricultural produce produced to environmental, health and welfare, social and other standards that do not meet those required of UK producers, and subsidy and support regimes that differ significantly to those introduced in future in the UK’s four nations.”
At present, while significant differences between the UK and the EU is allowed under Single Market, Common Agricultural Policy and related rules, these are within strict boundaries aimed at minimising market distortion and unfair competition while recognising regional and national needs.
If a trade deal with the EU is reached, there is potential for market distortion and unfair competition for UK producers as a result of the fact that the EU will continue to pay farmers direct support, but Wales and England want to move over to environmental ‘public goods’ style payments – with many lobbying for farm payments to be cut altogether.
“The EU’s reaffirmed commitment to maintaining direct support for active farmers through CAP payments, coupled with a move in Wales and other parts of the UK to get rid of direct farm support in favour of environmental payments, would clearly introduce the kind of unfair competition the UK Government refers to in this paper.
“This danger is no different in principle to the dangers recognised in the Internal Markets White Paper, so also should be recognised by our Governments – not only in the context of unfair competition from the EU, our most important trading partner in terms of food, but also countries like the USA if we are to strike a deal with them.
“We need a trade deal with the EU to avoid massive damage to farms and other businesses, but we also need our governments to recognise the self inflicted damage that could be done by radically changing our own farm support systems while our main competitors twenty or thirty miles away over the sea continue with direct farm support,” he added.
Wales can lead on net-zero farming
NFU CYMRU hosted a farm visit for the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma MP, to demonstrate that Welsh farmers are well-placed to deliver on the industry’s net zero ambitions.
The event saw NFU Cymru launch its new document, which sets out that Welsh farmers are part of the solution to climate change.
NFU Cymru President John Davies presented the report to the Secretary of State, who also holds the role of nominated President for COP26, as part of the on farm meeting.
The visit was hosted by NFU Cymru Next Generation Group member Llŷr Jones, whose 1,600-acre sheep, beef and egg farm near Corwen also produces renewable energy to satisfy the farm’s energy needs, exporting the surplus power to the grid.
As part of his visit to Derwydd Farm, Mr Sharma was also able to learn about the scale of work carried out on the farm as part of Welsh Government’s Glastir agri-environment scheme, including creating habitats for wildlife, tree planting, protecting some 30 acres of peatland, hedgerow management and soil and grassland management.
During his visit, the BEIS Secretary planted an apple tree as an example of the environmental work the agricultural sector carries out to sequester carbon, while also providing food and aiding biodiversity.
Speaking after the visit, NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “By focussing on improving farming’s productive efficiency; improving land management and enhancing land use to capture more carbon; and boosting renewable energy and the wider bio-economy, Wales’ farmers will be able to play their part in addressing the issues brought about by climate change. By reducing carbon emissions in these ways farmers are in a strong position to achieve the industry’s goal of achieving net zero by 2040.
“I am thrilled that we were able to welcome the BEIS Secretary, Alok Sharma MP, on farm today to see Llŷr Jones’ exciting and impressive farming enterprise, which has carbon capture and renewable energy at its heart. Llŷr’s farm is just one of a wide network of farms across Wales who are harnessing innovation to reduce emissions and produce climate friendly food. These businesses are net zero leaders not just in the respect of farming, but in a wider business context.”
Alok Sharma, COP26 President and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “I was very pleased to visit Llŷr Jones’ farm and see first-hand the actions being taken to mitigate climate change and support nature on their land.
“I welcome the NFU’s ambitious commitment to reach net zero by 2040, and I look forward to working across governments, business and civil society in the run up to COP26 to raise global commitments to reduce carbon emissions.”
NFU Cymru Next Generation Group member Llŷr Jones added: “I take great pride in the work we do to maintain and enhance the environment, encourage biodiversity and support the local community alongside my core role as a food producer.
“I was pleased to be able welcome the Secretary of State on farm today to show him how we’re always striving to positively influence the carbon impact of our business. I hope Mr Sharma enjoyed his visit to my north Wales hill farm and that what he has seen shows him that our industry has a vital role to play in the climate change challenge now and in the future.”
Broadband must reach rural communities
THE FUW has responded positively to news that there are plans to bring full fibre broadband to an additional three million homes and businesses in some of the UK’s most isolated rural communities, but stresses it must really reach them.
The connection to 3.2 million UK premises, which was given the go-ahead after an Ofcom consultation, is reported to be part of a £12bn investment by Openreach to build full fibre infrastructure to 20 million premises throughout the UK by the end of this decade.
Places set to benefit include Aberystwyth in west Wales, Millom in Cumbria, Thurso in north-east Scotland, and Ballycastle in County Antrim. Openreach is due to publish the full list of the 251 locations, referred to as Area 3, where it will build the new network. Ofcom has estimated there are 9.6 million homes and businesses situated in this final third of the UK.
Responding to the announcement, FUW Ceredigion county chairman Morys Ioan said: “The last few months have served as a stark example of how vital connectivity is. Our own Union staff, many of whom live in rural areas, have been working from home and we have continued to assist members with digital paperwork for their farm businesses. Without an internet connection this would not have been possible.
“It is really good news that this extra funding is being directed at rural communities but we must make sure that it really does go to those premises who currently are not benefitting from full fibre broadband.
“Our rural towns and villages have been left behind in the race for better and faster connectivity and it is critical for the competitiveness and viability of rural businesses, and the economy, that tangible improvements are made now.
“The FUW has stressed on many occasions that those without a connection cannot diversify their businesses, that they cannot support their children’s education and that they cannot connect readily with Government programmes for advice and support payments as they are mandated to do.”
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