Welsh set to lobby in Cardiff

3 July 2001

Welsh lobby Cardiff Assembly

By Johann Tasker

WELSH farmers have lobbied politicians in Cardiff to emphasise what they believe is the worst rural crisis in living memory.

Farmers told Welsh Assembly members on Wednesday (4 July) that foot-and-mouth could be the final nail in farmings coffin.

New cases of the disease in the Brecon Beacons have fuelled fears that an anticipated exodus from the industry will forever change the Welsh countryside.

Incomes of hill farms in North Wales which have plummeted down to an average of 4100 a year, according to the Farmers Union of Wales.

Union analysts have calculated that members are working around the clock – on average a working week of some 70 hours for returns that are a pittance.

Recent surveys have indicated that farmers are leaving the industry in increasing numbers, and that their children are turning their backs on farming.

Farmers who have diversified and invested in tourism and other sidelines had been hit hard by foot-and-mouth disease.

FUW president Bob Parry said: “The effects of this crisis on farming and the Welsh countryside will be felt for many years to come.”

He added: “Many now believe that it will never be the same again.”

Mr Parry said it was up to the government and the National Assembly to recognise the severity of the crisis and to cushion its impact.

The National Farmers Union of England and Wales has estimated that more than 50,000 jobs have been lost from farming over the last two years.

The Scottish Executive has only recently published its blueprint for the future of agriculture in Scotland with 54 action recommendations.

But a similar project in Wales has been delayed by foot-and-mouth.

The FUW fears that falling lamb market prices could lead to further problems on Welsh farms. It has called for special measures to help sheep producers.

Normally around a third of Welsh lamb production is exported.

But a European ban on exports because of foot-and-mouth means the home market could be swamped, prompting a disastrous drop in market prices.

Rural Minister Carwyn Jones will be told that lamb prices have already started to plummet to worrying levels with the fear that there is worse to come.

Alan Gardiner, chairman of the FUW Livestock Committee said last year Welsh lamb was the primary export worth 100 million to the Welsh economy.

“The loss of this critical market and the current decline in market returns for producers highlights the need for urgent government action.”

The FUW wants a package of measures to ease the problem, including a lamb processing scheme for lambs and ewes which cannot find a market.


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