Representatives from Welsh Government, processors’ bodies, the Livestock Auctioneers’ Association, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) and farmers’ unions have met at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells to analyse the market situation and discuss responses to ensure the long-term profitability of the sector.
A number of key issues have depressed producer prices throughout the UK, Europe and America, including increased UK production, low consumer spending and volatility in currencies and trade.
The outlook for the sector has been further complicated by political uncertainty around Brexit, which could have a major impact on the balance between imports and exports.
Key role in environmental goals
Stakeholders believe that a viable long-term future for beef production is vital for the Welsh farming industry, and that the country’s largely low-intensity and grass-fed systems had a positive role to play in answering consumers’ requirements. It can also play a key role in environmental goals, according to experts.
“The latest UK retail figures show a small increase in overall beef sales, but a decline in consumption of more expensive cuts,” said Gwyn Howells, chief executive of HCC.
“This may reflect general low consumer confidence, and has the effect of tightening margins for everyone in the supply chain.”
Farmers’ Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts added: “Prices are down by hundreds of pounds per animal despite the pound being significantly weaker than it was last year and factors that would normally have boosted prices.
“This means significant losses for farmers in an industry in which it is extremely difficult to make a profit at the best of times.
“With Brexit likely to sever and disrupt supply chains and add to pressures, action needs to be taken by retailers and others to ensure Welsh producer confidence is restored.”