EU export ban causes concern

The Welsh Assembly’s rural affairs minister Elin Jones has admitted to having concerns about the impact of the EU export ban on Welsh lamb prices.

“Between August and December 2006 about 1.1m lambs were exported with a value of £31m,” she told assembly members.

She pointed to the closure of Cig Cibyn’s specialist export abattoir at Caernarfon as an indication of forthcoming pressure on domestic prices.

“This amount of additional meat on the (domestic) market will inevitably create strong downward pressure on prices,” Ms Jones told AMs.

She plans to meet the first minister, Rhodri Morgan, and representatives of the retail sector to seek assurances that they will do what they can to provide support at this critical time.

“The key message I want to get across to supermarkets and to the people of Wales is that a significant means of supporting Welsh farmers is to buy Welsh produce.”

Following the latest meeting with industry representatives, at which she was warned that farmer anger about falling prices could generate protests, she assured farmers that she was doing all she could to relieve pressure on the industry.

This included working with her counterparts in England and Scotland to define the high- and low-risk areas of Britain. This, she believed, would restore some degree of trading normality without losing sight of the need to maintain strict disease controls.

“I hope this will allow animals to start moving again from upland to lowland areas as soon as possible on the basis of veterinary risk assessment.”

After the cancellation of the National Sheep Association’s ram sale at Builth Wells on 24 September, and the suspension of other auctions, Ms Jones said she was in discussion with auctioneers and farming unions about how movement might be facilitated through farm-to-farm sales and virtual sales.

Slaughter Stops
  • Livestock slaughtering and processing at St Merryn Meats’ plant at Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan ceased for two days this week after it emerged the abattoir had received livestock from a Surrey farm infected with foot-and-mouth.

    Activity was halted at the plant, which employs 1000 people, after routine stock tracing revealed that it received animals from one of the infected farms before movements were banned.

    The animals were inspected by veterinary surgeons on arrival and after slaughter in line with standard procedures but no signs of the disease were discovered.

    Elin Jones, Welsh assembly rural affairs minister, emphasised that the closure was routine, but she admitted that it was a timely reminder that Wales was still vulnerable to an incursion of disease.