NSA Cymru/Wales Region - Annual Members Meeting

Date: 22nd February 2018

Time: 2pm

Location: Royal Welsh Showground, Hafod y Hendre, Builth Wells, LD2 3SY

The challenge facing sheep farmers, as Brexit looms and the younger generation seek more exciting and convenient eating experiences, is to create a new product.  The message to NSA Cymru members was delivered by both McDonalds franchisee, Ron Mounsey, a former dairy farmer, and National Sheep Association Chief Executive Phil Stocker.

Speaking at the NSA Cymru Annual Meeting Mr Mounsey, who runs 15 McDonalds restaurants, employing 1200 people, stretching from Pembroke Dock to Newport , Gwent, challenged the industry ‘to come up with the product’. He said lamb had been used in a McDonalds promotion called ‘Great Tastes of the World’, an Indian burger, but had only  ‘gone down OK’, with it being quite difficult to get the cooking right.

He added: ”I’ve always challenged it back to the industry, if you can come up with a product, then we will probably look at it. It depends on the market of course.

“The challenge is out there to show something that we can perhaps use. No promises, obviously, because we have a Tasting Panel and a Chef’s Council, a group of top chefs who develop our tastes and our burgers.”

Phil Stocker picked up on the theme and addressed the challenge of ‘putting some excitement and interest’ into the 20 to 40 age group market.  It was important to tap into international cuisine options and taste experiences.

He said:”We believe we can do something in that more artisan end of the market, linked with our British Heritage and traditional sheep farming, and creating interest in both local and global markets, alongside the industry’s core offering.”

The challenges posed by Brexit were also highlighted by Phil Stocker.  He warned that the sheep industry is probably more at risk than any other sector.  Prices and trade are crucial, but sheep farmers generally are heavily reliant on Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 payments.

He added: “We export somewhere in the region of 30/35% of our product each year and 96% of that goes into the European Union. So if we end up crashing out of the EU and we fall back onto WTO tariffs we could be facing tariffs of up to 50% of the value and that could add another £2 or £2.50 a kilogram onto lamb going into Europe.

“That is not all going to be absorbed within the market place. There will be pressure on farmgate prices if it happens.  And then you’ve got the future of farm support, you’ve got not just this Government but the previous Government, the Conservative and Liberal coalition and previously the Labour Government, so all three of our leading political parties have all pushed and tried to drive support to agriculture down in this last 15/20 years.

“The Treasury wants to see less money going into agriculture, so we’ve got a job on our hands if we want to keep the budget going into agriculture and rural development. We’ve got a job on our hands if we want to keep that money going to active farmers to do what they need to do.”

He urged that public expenditure on sheep farming could be justified.  It was about teasing out the public good, but there had to be a more intelligent argument to show what the public gained in return for the money paid to farming.

 He also urged farming organisations to ‘grow up’ and recognise the value of working with other organisations. He stressed that there is more to be gained by working collaboratively.

NSA Young Ambassador, Caryl Hughes, who farms near Llangollen stressed the value of the scheme. She particularly appreciated the networking opportunities it had created within the group of 12. They remained on What’s App, Snapchat and Facebook, sharing problems and experiences, with almost instantaneous responses.

Sion Ifans of Welsh Lamb and Beef Promotion illustrated how members could benefit from software to help with record keeping for Farm Asurance. The Farm Records facility is available to all 7,500 members and easily accessed from a mobile phone.

The new NSA Cymru Chairman is Kerry Hill and Dorset down sheep breeder, Tim Ward, who farms at Churchstoke, Montgomery. Vice Chairman is Sennybridge based Kate Hovers, sheep farmer and past president of the Sheep Veterinary Society, a consultant and flock health advisor.