The potential impact of Brexit on crucial areas of the Welsh red meat industry, like EU exports and PGI status, meant that repatriating more than £1m a year of marketing and development cash now unfairly residing in England was more urgent than ever, Huw Irranca-Davies AM told industry leaders at a Senedd briefing.
He referred to the Red Meat Levy, under which farmers and processors pay a contribution on every animal towards promotion, marketing and development work by Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).
Because of the structure of the slaughterhouse industry, many Welsh farmers were using facilities across the border and so vital funding ended up in England. The English, Welsh and Scottish levy bodies are agreed on proposals for reform but steps have not yet been taken by the UK Government to implement them.
“The slaughter industry’s restructuring over decades to the disadvantage of that Welsh red meat levy means that you have a lot less funds available to do the essential marketing and promotion work for this industry,” Huw Irranca-Davies told the HCC-organised AMs’ briefing on the implications of Brexit.
“There have been signals from the UK Government that they are willing to engage with us and other devolved administrations and bring forward proposals that would have a fairer settlement.
“It sounds like there is a will up there to do it – but we have to bolt that down. There may be some role for this place in actually pushing harder with all of our political parties in saying ‘we need a fairer deal’.
“So there again is a message for us as an Assembly and for cross-party colleagues: we need to bang the drum on this,” said Mr. Irranca-Davies.
He reiterated the concerns of HCC Chairman Dai Davies who, in also addressing the meeting, said that more than 90 per cent of the Welsh red meat export trade relied on the EU, stressing the need for a Brexit with “free and unfettered trade access”.
He also wanted to see a resolution to the uncertainty over the EU’s highly-prized Protected Geographical Indication status that Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef enjoyed and that made a major difference in boosting overseas marketing and sales.
This was “up in the air” at the moment and we have to make sure this special status was protected, Mr. Irranca-Davies said.
HCC Chairman Dai Davies said; “I would like to thank Huw Irranca-Davies AM for sponsoring this important briefing event in the Senedd. He spoke very eloquently about the importance of the food industry to Wales’s economy, and about the challenges we face – maintaining access to EU export markets and the PGI status of our products as we head towards Brexit, and ensuring that Wales receives its fair share of the red meat levy.
“It was heartening to see a good number of AMs from several parties present, as well as representatives of a wide range of organisations within the red meat industry,” added Mr. Davies.