Welsh agriculture needs to recruit and train around 8000 new people over the next five years to replace the current above average age workforce.

Jane Hutt, Welsh assembly minister for children and lifelong learning and skills, told industry stakeholders and training providers attending the opening of a learning zone at the show that farming’s role was vital.

“The environmental and land based sector provides food for the table, enjoyment in our leisure time and safeguards the beautiful landscape around us,” Ms Hutt said. “The bedrock of this sector is its vast breadth of skills and knowledge.”

Developing and sharing skills

It was important to provide an effective mechanism for developing and sharing skills and the assembly was working with Lantra, the land based sector training agency on 38 individual action plans.

Peter Martin, Lantra chief executive, said tourism associated with the Welsh environment was worth £821m and supported 23,600 jobs. Another 117,000 jobs were required to manage the natural environment.

More than 70,500 people were employed in a variety of land based enterprises ranging from livestock and crop production and horticulture to forestry and land based engineering.

Skills gaps had been identified and research reported that there were difficulties in recruitment and retention of staff, exacerbated by the historical image of low pay and long hours.

Investment in skills and training must be given a high business priority.