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The Farmers Union of Wales has launched a ‘five-point plan’ for UK governments which it says should be implemented to tackle the effects of the war in Ukraine and other factors on farmers , food producers and consumers.
Speaking at the FUW press conference ahead of the Royal Welsh Show on Sunday July 17, FUW President Glyn Roberts stressed that Russia’s war on Ukraine has exacerbated the ongoing impacts caused by the pandemic and Brexit, causing major economic pressures for consumers and businesses and a world food emergency.
“Many of the global influences affecting us now will be beyond the control of UK governments, but there is nevertheless room for significant action that genuinely considers our long-term interests while helping us in the short-term,” said Mr. Roberts.
As global bodies such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund and World Bank continue to warn of global food shortages, record high food prices and other factors that will lead to famine and political instability, food price inflation in the United Kingdom is expected to reach 15% while production cost inflation for British farmers is close to 30%.
The UK’s dependence on other countries for food has nearly doubled since the mid-1980s, with 40% of UK food now being imported, up from around 22% in the mid-1980s.
Over the same period, the UK’s reliance on imports of ‘indigenous type foods’ which can be produced in the UK has increased fivefold, from 5% to 25%.
Mr. Roberts also highlighted the impact of fuel prices on consumers and businesses.
“Although we are less dependent on Russia than other countries for fuel, our fuel prices are nevertheless among the highest in Europe,” said Mr. Roberts.
“This at a time when disposable incomes in the UK have fallen drastically since 2007 compared to comparable European economies.”
Mr Roberts said the storm that has swept over British politics in recent weeks and led to the resignation of Boris Johnson will not leave calm in its wake, and that the UK still faces a fueling storm by Russia’s war on Ukraine, the side effects of the pandemic and the continued impacts of Brexit.
“When a new prime minister finally takes office in early September, the new broom will have more than just sweeping to do,” said Mr. Roberts.
From Sunday and throughout the Royal Welsh show, the FUW will highlight policies in a five-point plan which it believes the new Prime Minister and UK governments must implement in order to relieve pressures on farmers, food producers and consumers immediately. , while strengthening our food and energy security in ways that reduce the long-term dangers of exposure to global emergencies.
“First, it’s time to reset international trade policy,” said Mr. Roberts
“The UK government has pursued liberal trade deals with distant countries which its own figures show will damage UK food security while having negligible benefits for the UK economy.
“It is time to put our food security at the heart of policy-making,”
He added, saying the first step to achieving this should be to withdraw the bill currently before the UK Parliament that would give a final stamp of approval to trade deals with Australia and New Zealand – and that if this does not happen, the British Parliament should oppose the bill.
The second point of the plan emphasizes the need to restore good relations with the UK’s closest neighbors, the majority of which are members of the EU and are members of the most stable trading partnership in the world.
“We must restore good relations with the nations and peoples who are our greatest allies in food and energy security, and represent the richest market in the world and the one on our doorstep,” said Mr. Roberts.
“Third, it’s time for a renewable energy revolution.
“Our reliance and exposure to global fossil fuel markets has been laid bare by the impacts of the pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“Large amounts of renewable energy are produced on Welsh farmland, but we have only harnessed a fraction of what is possible. Power generation using fossil fuels is second only to business in contributing to Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions and is the second largest contributor in the UK after transport.
“Our governments must step up to restore the massive growth seen in the industry over the past decade by encouraging on-farm renewable energy generation and removing barriers without harming our ability to produce food.”
The fourth point of the plan highlights the need to rethink national agricultural and rural policies to strengthen food security by protecting family farms and food producers who are at the heart of UK food supply chains.
“The UK’s departure from the EU has led the UK government to cut food and farm spending by hundreds of millions, threatening our food security by undermining farming businesses and the thousands of businesses and jobs upstream and downstream that depend on agricultural production.
“Meanwhile, the refocusing of agricultural policies on environmental issues threatens to overshadow the importance of maintaining food production.
“Protecting the family farms and food producers who are at the heart of our food supply chains must be a central objective of all future agricultural policies of the governments of our nations and must be put on an equal footing with environmental objectives. said Mr. Roberts.
The fifth point of the plan stresses the need to provide financial support to critical industries.
“EU countries have announced support packages worth hundreds of billions to support businesses suffering from massive price increases and to support and boost food production,” Roberts said.
“To protect domestic production, UK governments must act now to put UK farmers on a level playing field with EU farmers who receive funds to offset the massive escalation in food production costs, and should Ease pressures on the food supply chain by providing direct financial assistance and tax relief to related industries that are critical to our food production and security.
Mr. Roberts said that over the next few days the FUW would release information relating to each of the five points.
“These actions are only part of the whole picture which needs to be assessed by our Welsh Government, and by a new Prime Minister and Cabinet after August, but they relate – directly or indirectly – to national security in terms of of our most precious commodity – food and the energy we need to fertilize, grow, harvest, process and transport that food in light of the storm that will continue to batter our nation and our consumers in the months and years coming.
“The next few days are a celebration of this food and the farmers who produce it, and for those of us who have to worry about these global issues and their impacts, the show is like a rock in the storm reminding us everything that is so fantastic about our industry,” he added.
Mr Roberts said many of these concerns would be the focus of FUW seminars over the next few days, as panels of professionals tackle a wide range of areas of concern for Welsh agriculture.
On Monday, the FUW Tree Planting Seminar will examine the issue in the context of the balance between food security, carbon sequestration and reforestation.
On Tuesday, a FUW Insurance Services Seminar will discuss the growing problem of farm theft and how to manage risk and keep insurance premiums low.
Wednesday’s seminars will examine TB technologies and their relevance to disease eradication and the central role women play in agriculture and the rural economy. The FUW will also welcome James Owen, Deputy Director of the Welsh Government’s Land Management Reform Division, who will discuss the Welsh Government’s latest proposals for a sustainable agriculture agenda.
Thursday’s seminar will focus on mental health in the particular context of women and menopause and how this affects women in and around agriculture.
“As always, in addition to these events, our staff and the presidential team will meet with dozens of ministers, politicians and civil servants to highlight industry concerns, where issues such as resource regulations “NVZ” water tank will be high on the agenda,” Mr. Roberts added.
(Main image: FUW)