HE CABINET Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs has welcomed the publication of an EU Exit scenario report for the food, fisheries, farming, forestry and the environment sectors.
The EU Exit scenario report has been published by the Cabinet Secretary’s Brexit Roundtable Stakeholder Group. The group was set up following the referendum result to provide a forum for engagement and collaboration between the Welsh Government and its key stakeholders across the portfolio in planning for Brexit.
Over a number of months, a sub-group examined a number of different Brexit scenarios to identify the possible impacts on the sectors. In its report, five scenarios were developed, including defaulting to WTO terms, an EU-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and complete access to the single market with new FTAs with third countries.
The report summarises the key findings of the work, which was developed with stakeholders across all of the sectors.
Key findings across the scenarios include:
Opportunities arise for some sectors in some scenarios, but not in all.
Food prices increase to some degree across all scenarios, particularly influenced by import tariffs, non-tariff barriers and higher labour costs.
The potential impacts for Welsh fishing vary from collapse under WTO tariffs to no change if the trading arrangements with the EU remain unchanged.
The importance of investing in ‘added value’ is a theme across all scenarios and with all sectors.
The sheep sector faces severe challenges as it relies on export to balance seasonal production and to achieve carcass balance. The pressures from geographical constraints and workforce availability in abattoirs and processing mean lamb markets are likely to struggle in all scenarios.
The dairy and poultry sectors are most robust because of their focus on UK internal markets and lower reliance on export. Beef remains viable with a buoyant dairy industry to supply calves, with a better carcass balance and a lower dependency on export.
The Welsh environment sector remains a potential growth area in term of eco-tourism through landscapes and seascape. It is rich in natural capital but investment is needed to develop new markets and to develop the skills the sector needs.
Government funding significantly impacts the rate of change but not the eventual outcome. For many of the most severely impacted sectors funding is unlikely to be able to prevent the impacts but it could help to facilitate change.
Without Government transitional support, in scenarios of big change, specific sectors may collapse quickly which will have wider consequences on community health and well-being.
Both farming and fishing businesses in Wales need to improve productivity and efficiency, and consider other income streams to stay viable. This will require improved business skills and investment in infrastructure.
The challenges and opportunities of Brexit will be different for each agricultural, fishing, forestry or food business. Mechanisms to support businesses to make the right decisions need to be put in place.
Lesley Griffiths said: “I welcome the publication of this EU Exit scenario report and would like to thank the stakeholders for all their hard work. My Brexit Roundtable Group is a key forum where we engage and work closely with key stakeholders across my portfolio to support a collective approach to Brexit in Wales.
“Leaving the EU brings a high degree of uncertainty, and poses both risks and opportunities across sectors including food, fisheries, farming, forestry and the environment. However, accurately predicting the impacts of Brexit is incredibly difficult.
“The Group has therefore considered a number of scenarios to explore the impact directly on key sectors and between the sectors to enable us to also consider potential wider impacts on our communities and our environment.
“Whilst today’s report makes for stark reading it will be an important resource for us as a government, as well as the sectors themselves, to inform our collective preparations for a successful future outside the EU.”
Welsh Government must balance farming priorities
IN EARLY July, the Welsh Government published its proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme.
Robert Dangerfield, Communications Manager for the Country Land Owners and Business Association Cymru, responds.
We are pleased to see the ambition shown within the document to support sustainable and profitable food production alongside addressing the climate and biodiversity emergencies.
The proposals arise after three consultations over five years and reflect the work our members and the CLA team have done with Welsh Government.
We are happy to see considerable detail on what the scheme will pay for, the process for how farmers and landowners can apply, and how the transition from the current landscape of the Basic Payment Scheme and Glastir to the Sustainable Farming Scheme will work.
We do, however, have some specific concerns.
Firstly, the requirements for 10% woodland/forestry cover and a 10% requirement for habitat creation and maintenance may not be suitable for all holdings. The need to balance sustainable food production must be considered further.
Secondly, there are no specific payment rates for the scheme. Welsh Government have explained that this is because the current funding settlement with the UK Government only goes to 2024, so they cannot commit to specific rates. This is disappointing, and we will continue to lobby to ensure future funding matches the commitments within the proposals.
WHAT HAS BEEN PROPOSED?
Despite the concerns highlighted above, there is a fair amount of detail within the document. To summarise, the scheme includes a farm sustainability review that will include farm details (size, sector, livestock), a carbon assessment and a baseline habitat survey.
The review will be digital, where possible, to reduce cost and concentrate resources on scheme delivery.
It will provide entry to the scheme and identify the actions Welsh Government will pay for. These will consist of a mixture of universal activities that all applicants must undertake – for which they will receive a baseline payment via a five-year contract and optional and collaborative actions which will attract additional payments.
The universal actions include:
· Record of key performance indicators;
· 10% of land for woodland/forestry and 10% for habitat creation/maintenance;
· Undertake animal health and welfare plan;
· Undertake a biosecurity plan;
· Manage areas of cultural/heritage significance;
· Undertake a five-yearly soil analysis.
The optional and collaborative actions are very wide-ranging and will be able to be tailored for the plethora of different farm types across Wales. One particular area of importance for our membership is access.
The proposal outline that any options relating to access are optional and include:
· upgrading footpaths to multi-use paths;
· enhancing existing paths to make them more accessible;
· establishing joined-up and new access routes and trails;
· establishing new access;
· hosting educational and care farm visits.
We will continue to work with the various access fora and the Welsh Government to ensure that any new access is voluntary, incentivised, and permissive.
The Royal Welsh Agricultural Show took place a week after the publication of the proposals, providing an ideal opportunity for discussion with lots of different organisations and our members.
Not surprisingly, the “10 and 10 requirements” dominated many meetings and conversations I had.
Some farmers were not concerned as they had already reached these percentages on their holding but were worried about land held under Farm Business Tenancies that often did not include the woodland.
In the short term, there are no quick answers; but the CLA Cymru team will be part of a Welsh Government-organised tenancy working group to discuss the impact of the proposals on landowners and tenants.
Other members outlined their worries that they needed all the productive land they had to go towards feeding their stock or growing their crops. This is a real concern.
For some, the solution will be to sustainably intensify other parts of their farm and become more efficient.
Where this is not possible, the role of exemptions for some farms must be considered by Welsh Government.
AGRICULTURE (WALES) BILL
The Agriculture (Wales) Bill will be published this Autumn.
It will be the legislative mechanism by which Welsh Government can administer the new scheme.
Ministers are confident it will receive Royal Assent by summer 2023, ready to begin testing, trialling, and introducing the new scheme.
We will be working with Members of the Senedd to ensure scrutiny of the Bill and to propose amendments if we see fit.
Welsh Cobs return to the farmyard at Llanerchaeron
HORSES have returned to the traditional farmyard at Llanerchaeron near Aberaeron, which is cared for by National Trust Cymru.
Tomos and Seren, two eighteen-year-old Welsh Cobs, have been living together for over a decade and recently moved into the Welsh farmyard.
Visitors will be able to meet the horses when they visit, during certain times of the day at the stable blocks.
Please check opening times before visiting www.nationaltrust.org.uk/llanerchaeron.
Ceredigion farmers left high and dry by lack of UK-NZ trade deal protections
PLAID CYMRU politicians have expressed significant concerns regarding the impact the new trade deal stuck between the UK and New Zealand will have on Ceredigion farmers.
The free trade agreement between New Zealand and the UK Government was signed on 28 February 2022 and is set to open the doors to a significant import of meat produce which could potentially hit the farming sector in Wales harder than in any other part of the UK.
NFU Cymru has recently raised concerns about the deal, stating that the potential negative cumulative impact of this cannot be overstated.
The New Zealand trade deal follows another similar deal with Australia, and while it offers significant upsides for farmers on the other side of the world, it potentially creates significant marketplace changes for Welsh farming.
Figures from the Farmers Union of Wales state the agreement could see the amount of beef that can be imported tariff-free from New Zealand rise immediately to 12,000 then gradually to 38,820 tonnes in ten years’ time. Further rises would occur in the subsequent five years, after which there would be no limit. A similar increase would also be seen in lamb, with the amount that could be imported tariff-free would increase by 35,000 tonnes per annum in years one to four, then by 50,000 tonnes per annum in years five to fifteen, after which there would be no limit.
Plaid Cymru’s Agriculture Spokesperson, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS, has today (2 March, 2022) raised the issue as a matter of urgency with the Welsh Government in the Senedd.
Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said: “While the spin will be about benefits, the truth is that this trade deal is a real cause for concern for Welsh farmers.
“The agreement will provide a 15 year transitional period, and it states that they will only be able to ‘utilise new access to the UK sheep meat market once they have filled 90% of their existing World Trade Organization (WTO) quota’.
“However, this leaves Welsh farmers at the whim of a market whereby they have no control nor input. Should something change in the sheep meat market then New Zealand meat would suddenly end up here or in the EU and undermine Welsh farmers.
“By failing to ensure that there are tariffs on imports here the UK Government have left Welsh farmers completely open to the whims of a market which they have no say and no protection.
Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales added: “Let us be clear, this trade deal is a gross betrayal of Ceredigion farmers. The UK Government’s own analysis suggests that the number of people working in agriculture will be negatively impacted by this deal, whilst it also threatens to undermine the entire Welsh agriculture sector – which we know is far more susceptible to harm from a poor trade deal than other farmers in other parts of the UK.
As we face a climate emergency, importing more food from the other side of the world that could be produced sustainably here in Wales, does not make any sense whatsoever.
Clearly, efforts must now be taken at Westminster to ensure that the Welsh farming sector is safeguarded from the potential negative impact of this agreement.”
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