LAST week we thoroughly enjoyed celebrating St David’s day and with that Welsh heritage, culture and our language, writes FUW president Glyn Roberts.

We also asked people to make sure that Welsh lamb and beef featured on their dinner plates to show support for our farming industry.

Supporting our farmers here in Wales, ensuring we have thriving, sustainable family farms for generations to come has been our mantra for many years and is in fact the reason this union is in existence.

Wales and its people matter to us, farming matters to us and we were clear in our messages when we met Members of Parliament in London for the annual St David’s day reception that the current levels on lamb imports are not acceptable.

We have seen an increase of 17 per cent in lamb imports last year, according to 2022 UK trade data, and the months of September through to November recorded abnormally high levels of frozen New Zealand product entering the UK (HCC figures).

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This should serve as a stark warning to the UK Government.

Let’s not forget that ministers, MPs and Lords who were supportive of the UK Government's liberal approach to trade negotiations with New Zealand and Australia argued at the time that the Welsh sheep industry should not be concerned as those countries were well below the existing import quota limits and this was unlikely to change.

We warned then that this was a naïve or deliberately misleading point of view that failed to take account of how global markets, exchange rates and other factors could rapidly change, leading to increases in import volumes that have a negative impact on UK markets.

Restoring the relationship with Europe as a trading partner is also something we have and are lobbying in order to protect our farmers.

So whilst we therefore welcome the deal reached with the EU to ease friction at the GB-NI border, we are demanding that this should pave the way for further agreements with the EU that would benefit businesses in the rest of Great Britain - including farmers.

The Windsor Framework, agreed in principle by the UK and EU, will significantly reduce barriers for goods entering Northern Ireland which are not destined for the Republic of Ireland or other parts of the EU.

This will be achieved through the introduction of ‘green lanes’ for such products.  

This deal is good for Northern Ireland and those exporting to Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

The fact that the deal also reduces the risk of a trade war with the EU that would have been devastating for agriculture is also very welcome. 

However, the benefits for Welsh farmers are negligible on the whole - notwithstanding some relatively niche exporters to Northern Ireland, for which this is good news.

The population of Northern Ireland is 1.9 million, compared with an EU population of 447 million, and the barriers to our trade with the EU will remain the same if the Government secures this new agreement.

As such, while we very much welcome and commend the progress made by the Prime Minister and the EU with this return by the UK to diplomatic norms and working with our neighbours, we believe this deal needs to pave the way to further agreements that remove barriers for our exports as Welsh farmers to the EU.