Gwyn Howells, the chief executive of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), warns that a no-deal Brexit will be catastrophic for the Welsh meat industry. Anna Tobin reports
A no-deal Brexit at the end of October could not come at a worst time for trading patterns in the Welsh red meat sector, warns Gwyn Howells, chief executive of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).
HCC, which analyses market data on behalf of the livestock farming and red meat processing industry in Wales, says that exports to Europe of Welsh Lamb, in particular, reach a peak in the late autumn. Disruption caused by the sudden imposition of WTO-level tariffs, which on lamb and beef will equate to between 40% and 90%, would cause immediate severe disruption for farmers and food businesses in Wales.
Welsh lamb and beef exports in 2018 contributed £187.6 million to the Welsh economy, with much of this concentrated in the September to December period as a result of seasonal trade. During the first week of November 2018, approxiately 37,000 lamb carcasses from Wales were exported to the EU.
“Our message has been clear for many months; namely that the red meat sector has great potential to drive exports within the Welsh food and drink industry, but that all this could be put at risk by a hard exit,” says Howells. “The potential impact of a chaotic no-deal Brexit in March was serious for our industry, but the effect of a similar scenario in October could be calamitous. This is just the time when many lambs, particularly from the hill sector, are coming onto the market.”
Over a third of Welsh Lamb and around an eighth of Welsh Beef production is exported overseas, with the 27 remaining countries of the EU being the destination for over 90% of the trade.
“HCC has worked hard in recent years alongside partners in government to obtain access to new markets, with notable successes in Asia and the Middle East. But it’s completely unrealistic to expect this business to replace a sudden interruption in our trade with our near neighbours in Europe, which is what WTO Tariffs would entail. The potential impact of No-Deal is extremely serious on farmers’ livelihoods and the viability of the food processing sector, which employs thousands of people in Wales,” adds Howells.
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