A year of domestic and global weather phenomena alongside last week's news that Vion will be pulling out of red meat and poultry processing in the UK have knocked farmer confidence.Despite this, the long term outlook for UK agriculture 'remains positive' the NFU Cymru President Ed Bailey said at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair.Farm incomes have been on an upward trend in recent years, there is strong public support for farmers as highlighted by this summer's SOS Dairy Campaign and widespread recognition of the need for farmers to increase production to address food security concerns."Whilst I remain upbeat and positive" Bailey said, "there are a number of issues placing significant pressure on livestock farming businesses this winter".The weather both at home and abroad in 2012 was the root cause of many problems facing farmers.The summer of 2012 was one of the wettest on record and it subsequently caused problems for hay and silage making with quality down as a result."This means we will need to purchase additional concentrate feed this winter to ensure that the production levels of our stock are not compromised" he said.However, with the UK Wheat harvest the lowest it has been for 20 years and the worst US drought in 56 years, purchased feed costs are already reported to be up 20 to 30 per cent on last year. The need to purchase greater volumes of feed at higher cost will hit the bottom line of all our farming businesses.
The poor summer has also impacted on lamb finishing. It has been estimated that in Wales alone there are an estimated quarter of a million extra lambs on the market this autumn compared to last year, this has hit market prices hard, in particular for the smaller hill and upland breeds.
“Last week we also heard of the news that Vion will be pulling out of red meat, pork and poultry processing across the UK" Bailey said."Since this news broke, I have been in discussions with Vion UK at the highest level to express the concerns of the livestock industry in Wales at this announcement and the need for the long term future of all the plants operating in Wales to be secured as quickly as possible".
"This winter is the worst possible one for hill and upland farmers to be entering without dedicated support that recognises the additional hardships associated with farming."
"With regard to Vion, the immediate focus must be on securing the future of the plants operating in Wales." However, the announcement has put in sharp focus the vulnerability of the red meat industry in the UK, given that levy collection and therefore the marketing and promotion of the sector are intrinsically linked to the location of abattoirs. This decision is almost entirely outside the control of primary producers.
"I will be asking the Deputy Minister to give serious consideration to how we can ensure greater security for meat promotion." "I would hope this can be achieved through amicable negotiations amongst the devolved administrations. However, if this fails, the National Assembly now has the power to legislate and amend the way that the levy is collected in Wales. Welsh Ministers may consider that this is an option that needs consideration to ensure that HCC has the revenue needed to drive the red meat sector forward in Wales."