Anger as Welsh warn of exodus from the sheep sector

Simmering anger over low lamb prices exploded at the Welsh Winter Fair when auctioneer Dai Lewis, chairman of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, read an unprecedented industry joint statement.

Main ring cattle judging was suspended while Mr Lewis spoke on behalf of Wales Young Farmers Clubs, NFU Cymru, the Farmers Union of Wales and Country Land and Business Association Wales.

The statement called on the UK government to recognise the dire financial situation Welsh farming continued to face as a result of foot-and-mouth disease, and to acknowledge the moral and legal obligations that it had to provide proportionate funding to alleviate extreme and growing economic pressures faced.

“While all organisations contend that a recovery package should be financed by the Treasury, if the Welsh Assembly government cannot persuade central government to meet its obligations, then they must find resources from within their contingency reserves to mitigate the impending economic disaster for the Welsh livestock industry.”

Earlier Rees Roberts, chairman of Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales) warned that the sheep industry could shrink to half its current size within two years unless supermarkets paid better prices.

He insisted that the industry was in meltdown, and certainly not crying wolf. It was “obscene” that some retailers were prepared to pick the pockets of the rest of the food chain to put profits on shareholders’ plates.

“They are within a stone’s throw away from inflicting permanent damage on what is a very proud and resilient industry,” Mr Roberts claimed.

“Farmgate prices have gone into freefall they stood at just 73.65p/kg liveweight on November 3, or 29% lower than for the same period in 2006, covering less than half the costs of production.”

Yet consumers were paying £6/kg at supermarket checkouts. The impending catastrophe would drive farmers from the hills, leaving the landscape to revert to scrub.