As encouraging export figures for UK produced red beef and lamb continue to be reported the National Sheep Association (NSA) is encouraging the Government to recognise the value of products produced domestically and the importance of giving UK producers opportunity to compete on a level playing field.
NSA’s message follows recent reports that Welsh food and drink exports hit a record high last year with red meat including Welsh Lamb helping exports reach a value of £641 million for the year.
Responding to this, NSA Cymru / Wales Region Development Officer Helen Roberts, said, “Following the publication of the Government’s Food strategy now is the time to commit to policy that supports, enhances and nurtures the unique industry we have on our doorstep.
“So far, we have seen little investment or opportunity to our domestic industries and markets especially with the recent Free Trade Agreements with Australia and New Zealand.”
NSA is concerned the new UK Food Strategy claims recent deals with Australia and New Zealand are designed to offer protection for the farming sector through and beyond the agricultural transition, so that farmers can evolve their business models and compete at home and abroad’ but NSA sees little to no protection to UK sheep producers after 15 years.
NSA, therefore, believes that although international trade offers UK consumers great opportunities to buy and enjoy exciting new products that cannot be produced domestically, there are a vast array that can, and it would be short-sighted to disregard those grown domestically in favour of exporting our carbon footprint.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker said, “The news that export demand for specialist products, with provenance, from our UK nations is growing in value is welcome.
“British standards, the quality of our product, our reputation, and our heritage are all great promotional points in growing export markets. But we still need to guard against trade deals that result in imports produced using methods not permitted here.
“There is scope to expand the UK’s sheep industry, even with the pressure on land use that we are seeing. Arable areas in particular offer significant expansion opportunities.
“This needs to be in line with market demand but that does exist for us if we can capitalise on our domestic market alongside building export demand.
“There are also vast opportunities in the hospitality and public procurement sector for supplying low carbon, sustainable UK produce. Now is the time for action, in an increasingly volatile business environment there must be certainty from government that primary domestic producers are at the heart of any future trading agreements.”