13 April 2000
Farmers force army to cancel training

By Robert Davies

FARMERS who claim that not enough home-produced lamb is bought by the army have forced the Ministry of Defence to cancel a major training exercise.

Operation Pilgrims Progress was to have used farmland between Newtown and Llandrindod Wells in mid-Wales to train troops next month.

But too many farmers and landowners objected. An MoD spokesman confirmed that the operation would now take place in another part of the UK.

The decision to stop co-operating came after it emerged that only 2% of lamb and mutton fed to home-based service personnel in 1999 was home-produced.

Susan Jones, executive officer of the Farmers Union of Wales in Montgomeryshire, said the army was banned in a bid to highlight the farm crisis.

“My members said that if their land was not good enough to supply the MoD with lamb it was not good enough for manoeuvres,” she said.

“We all regret having to exclude troops from our land, but feel it time to draw public attention to the crisis in our industry.”

Hugh Richards, president of the NFU Cymru-Wales, said there was a price to pay for the extensive use of Welsh farmland for troop exercises.

“That price is to source British and Welsh lamb for our troops. It is quite frankly a scandal that they are eating foreign lamb,” he said.

NFU officials will now meet MoD procurement minister Lewis Mooney to discuss the worsening relationship between the army and Welsh farmers.

The MoD claims that British lamb is too expensive. It can source cheaper, better value lamb from New Zealand and Australia.