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.