THE WELSH DAIRY SHOW took place at the United Counties Showground on Tuesday (Oct 25).
Opened by Lesley Griffiths AM, the show brought together livestock owners, dairy producers and farmers from across Wales for an event focused on one of Wales’ major sectors in its premier industry.
While the mood was celebratory, the event also acknowledged the difficulties facing the agricultural industry in general and the dairy sector in particular.
CHALLENGES FOR DAIRY SECTOR
Delegates at the annual Farmers’ Union of Wales Eve of Dairy Show Dinner, taking place on Monday (Oct 24), heard how the dairy industry is facing some challenges that need to be overcome, including low farm gate prices, the threat posed by NVZs and bovine TB.
The event was held at the Ivy Bush Hotel, Carmarthen and welcomed over 100 guests to the HSBC-sponsored dinner.
Speaking at the dinner, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The price our dairy farmers get paid for their produce is still too low, with many having to cope with almost a 50% reduction in their milk cheques.
“And, of course, we should note that the tools available in the Dairy Code of Practise in 2012 were not designed to deal with global issues such as Russian trade embargoes.
“Indeed, the Code can do little to better the prospects of producers who have been served notice and we continue to reiterate that smaller producers and those in remote areas are being left vulnerable during periods of oversupply. We must strive to remove volatility from the market.”
Mr Roberts further stressed that it is not just the price of milk or contracts that pose a risk to the viability of the dairy industry and that there are two other big issues at play – Nitrate Vulnerable Zones and Bovine TB – that will be around for some time to come.
“The proposed NVZ designations remain a major concern and we continue to stress the operational and financial impacts those designations would have upon farms that are within an NVZ area.
“Given such costs, there must be full justification for any proposed increases in designation, an appropriate transition period and support. I would therefore urge all of our members to make sure they work with their local county office and submit a response to the consultation,” said the Union President.
Referring to the recent announcement made by the Welsh Government in regards to tackling bovine TB, Mr Roberts added: “We heard last week that the Welsh Government will consider a badger test-and-cull type approach to TB. It is as a small step in the right direction, but many farmers will be concerned at the implications of splitting Wales into TB zones.
“Targeting infected badgers would be a welcome move, but it is disappointing that it has taken so many years to move back towards common sense after the original comprehensive plan to tackle the disease in wildlife was abandoned by the previous Welsh Government.”
Mr Roberts told delegates that the FUW will now consult with its members on both the NVZ and bTB consultation and to ensure that they get a deal that suits the farmers of Wales in all aspects.
ADVICE ON DAIRY CONTRACTS
Also speaking before the Show, Aled Jones, NFU Cymru Milk Board Chairman, said: “The dairy industry has been through a turbulent couple of years and prices still aren’t where they should be. That’s why it’s as important as ever that producers ensure they can make the most out of any contract they are offered.”
Mr Jones continued: “Given where the market has been, it’s understandable that farmers are moving buyers for better prices. But remember, with most dairy contracts the buyer can change the price quickly after you’ve signed. It is important that you are fully aware of what the small print says in any contract you sign.
“The most recent AHDB figures for farmgate milk prices show average milk price across the UK at 21.34ppl – in reality, with the scarcity of retailer aligned contracts in Wales, average milk price in Wales will probably be running 1-2ppl below that. This is in stark contrast to market indicators that suggest milk price should be moving towards 25-30ppl.
“The latest AHDB market indicators show an actual milk price equivalent (AMPE) of 28.5ppl and milk for cheese value equivalent (MCVE) of 32.4ppl; the latest Global Dairy Trade auction was up 1.9% and spot milk price is now approaching 40ppl, a huge disparity from farmgate price.
“With 2015-2016 average net farm incomes for dairy farmers forecast to have fallen by 47%, farmers are in urgent need of price rises being passed back down the dairy supply chain.
“If we take a conservative estimate of the average Welsh milk producer price lagging at 5ppl behind what it should be, that means the Welsh rural economy is losing out on a massive £220,000 a day, or £6.7 million a month, from a failure of milk buyers to fully pass price increases to Welsh dairy producers.
“This money is vital not just for farmers, but to the agricultural merchants, vet practices, machinery dealers, builders, electricians, plumbers, accountants and others who rely on dairy farmers for a significant part of their income and who, as a result of cash flow problems on dairy farmers, have also suffered through this dairy downturn.
“Farmers have understood the difficulties there have been in the marketplace for the last two years and accept that the collapse in commodity prices put pressure on the whole supply chain, but what we cannot accept is the widening of the gap between farmgate prices and market returns.
“Welsh dairy farmers’ patience is running thin – many have racked up huge debts during this difficult period and are struggling with the pressure of repayments. We rightly expect the current round of milk price announcements to see substantial price rises across the board to reflect the upturn in market conditions, to help reverse the decline in farm income and to bring much needed cash into the Welsh rural economy.”
IWAN WINS NFU AWARD
At the event, Iwan Francis of Talog, Carmarthenshire, has been announced as the winner of the 2016 NFU Cymru/ NFU Mutual Welsh Dairy Stockperson of the Year award during the Welsh Dairy Show.
The competition, now in its fifth year, recognises the important contribution a good dairy stockperson can make to a dairy enterprise, as well as the wider Welsh dairy industry.
Iwan, 31, studied at Gelli Aur Agricultural College and later Aberystwyth University, where he gained a degree in Agriculture and Business and was awarded the RWAS Agricultural Student of the Year title.
His first experience of working in the dairy sector came at ManIwan, Bryn Iwan during his college studies. He later went on to spend a year in New Zealand, working at a 1,300 cow unit in Invercargill on the South Island and a 550 cow unit in Hamilton on the North Island.
He now has his own herd of 200 dairy cows, a mixture of both New Zealand Friesians and Jersey crosses, at Nantglas, a rented farm in Carmarthenshire.
During a presentation at the Welsh Dairy Show on Tuesday, Iwan was presented with the top prize of £300 and a Welsh slate engraved cheese board by Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths AM and NFU Cymru Milk Board Chairman Aled Jones.
Speaking after the presentation, Aled Jones said: “The standard of this year’s Welsh Dairy Stockperson of the Year award entries were very high, but Iwan’s dedication, experience and expertise really impressed us. It’s fantastic that we’ve been able to crown a local winner at this year’s Welsh Dairy Show and Iwan joins a long line of worthy recipients of this prestigious title.”
Dai Davies OBE, Chairman of NFU Mutual’s Advisory Board in Wales, said: “This award is about highlighting the fact that Wales has some of the finest, most passionate stockpeople that you will find anywhere in the world. Iwan’s application ticked every box that we were looking for so it’s pleasing that we’ve been able to showcase his contribution to the industry with this award.”
Mair James, Welsh Dairy Show Secretary, said: “It’s always a pleasure for us to be able to host this award here at the Welsh Dairy Show. Congratulations to Iwan – a fully deserving champion.”
FAMILY BUSINESSES VITAL
Speaking at the Welsh Dairy Show, FUW Carmarthen County Executive Officer Assistant Nerys Edwards, whose time is also split between being actively involved in the running of the home farm and keeping a successful occasion cake business ‘Cacennau Moethus’, said: “The ‘Wedding Cheese Cake’ has, in recent years, become an increasingly popular option by bridal couples, combining both the concept of a beautiful tiered cake and the traditional cheese board.
“In fact, according to experts, the Wedding Cheese Cake is now chosen for one in ten weddings and as there are over 700 different types of cheese made in the UK, it’s no surprise that couples are opting for this type of ‘cake’.”
A cheese wedding cake is a bespoke addition to a wedding feast and often has added edible decorations to suit the theme and colour scheme of any wedding, Mrs Edwards explained.
The Wedding Cheese cake on display was sponsored by Caws Cenarth, a multi award winning artisan cheese maker, based at Fferm Glyneithinog, Lancych, Carmarthenshire.
A family business established in 1987 by Gwynfor and Thelma Adams, and now run by their son Carwyn, they are a sixth generation of cheesemakers and are the oldest established producer of Welsh farmhouse Caerffili cheese.
FUW President Glyn Roberts concluded: “Wales has the potential to be an exceptional rural economic powerhouse and there are plenty of opportunities for us to grasp in light of our exit from the European Union. The dairy industry has shown us some great examples of how we can do that, how to overcome the challenges posed by a volatile market and we can be proud to have such passionate and enthusiastic producers.”
Warning of serious disruption on M4 and M5 today due to fuel prices protest
POLICE have warned of “serious disruption” to drivers using the M4 and M5 on Monday 4 July due to a planned protest.
Protesters intend to block the Prince of Wales Bridge from 7am until 7pm as part of a nationwide campaign against rising fuel prices.
The protest is due to start at the M4 Magor services at junction 23A eastbound and the Clevedon Interchange at junction 20 of the M5 westbound.
It is also expected to cause disruption to the M48 Severn Bridge and the M32.
Drivers are being urged to avoid the area or plan alternative routes.
Bristol Airport has issued a warning urging travellers to allow extra time if heading to or from the airport.
Police said additional officers will be brought in to ensure the protest is carried out legally.
Drivers have been advised by Gwent Police to work from home where possible and avoid the area between 7am and 7pm, with protestors planning to block parts of the road between M4 Magor services, junction 23A eastbound, and Junction 20 of the M4 between those hours.
Chief Superintendent Tom Harding said: “Gwent Police, and Avon and Somerset Police, are working jointly with neighbouring police forces and partner agencies to ensure emergency and critical services continue and to reduce disruption to both road users and local communities, however we are preparing for serious disruption throughout the day.
“I would encourage drivers to reconsider their journey, consider working from home and avoid the area where possible.
“The right to protest under UK law must be balanced with the rights of the wider community who may be affected. We have additional officers and support in place on Monday to ensure the protest is carried out in accordance with the law.”
The planned protest is thought to have been organised by the Facebook group Fuel Price Stand Against Tax, and has attracted both criticism and support online.
The latest travel disruption comes following the closure of the Severn Bridge for a second consecutive weekend, as well as the Severn Tunnel rain line which will be out of use until July 10 due to essential work. Motorists will be unable to cross the M48 Severn Bridge until 6am on Monday as it is undergoing essential work for eight months.
The bridge was first shut last weekend as painstaking work to repair and replace corroded suspension cables began. Traffic on the bridge is likely to be very heavy on Monday due to the fuel protest.
Police have told protesters banners must be tightly secured to vehicles and nobody should be walking around on the bridge during the demonstration. Protesters will stay inside their vehicles or stand beside them.
An organiser said: “We will now only be doing it on the Prince of Wales Bridge. We have to keep in mind everyone’s safety and if we block the bridge totally and there is an emergency there would be hell. Yes it means only one bridge but [due to the amount of traffic caused] there will still be a massive impact.”
Two weeks ago one of the initial M4 bridge protest organisers Ashley Fowler said : “We’re all car enthusiasts and we have all been worried about fuel prices and when I saw the post about blocking the bridges we began talking about it. Then people started asking me to make an event so we could update each other.
“I made the event because I run a car club in Cardiff which I started on social media during the pandemic lockdowns to help people’s mental health. When we can we go out to car parks and just meet up and have a chat but during the pandemic we weren’t able to do it so I made the group.
“Now we can’t meet up so much again because of the cost of fuel. I know some of them can’t drive so much because they need to feed their kids. It’s serious. People are getting really depressed about it. One of the boys in the group has actually sold his car due to fuel price rises.”
Ascona Group announces new Car and Truck wash facilities
ASCONA GROUP, one of the UK’s fastest-growing forecourt operators, is pleased to announce two new vehicle washing partnerships as part of improvements to its unique roadside retail proposition across its forecourt estate.
As part of a new partnership with the American based PDQ Manufacturing, a leader for in-bay automatic vehicle washing facilities, Ascona Group will be the first in the UK to install the ‘Laserwash 360 Plus’, a touchless car wash system for its customers.
The partnership will initially expand the wash options at the Hinton Service Station, with a view to roll out the system to other sites under the Ascona Group’s brand, ‘Charlie’s Express Car Wash’ later this year. The partnership is a significant investment for Ascona and demonstrates its commitment to ever improving the experience for customers.
Ascona Group is also delighted to announce a strategic partnership with WashTec UK that will see Ascona introduce a ‘First of its Kind’ truck washing facility at the Tenby Road site on the A40 Eastbound in Carmarthenshire, which offers the very best technology available to HGV drivers.
The truck wash employs a fully ‘closed loop’ total water recycling system, the first of its kind in Wales, which recovers all water used within the wash process, filtering it for reuse with little or no water entering the mains drainage system. This system ensures Ascona not only has the best commercial wash in South Wales, but also offers customers one of the more environmentally friendly approaches in operation.
Commenting on the announcement, CEO Darren Briggs said: “From the very beginning, we knew that our sites must present our customers with a unique and compelling offer which is why we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to improve our roadside retail facilities.
“These two new partnerships further demonstrate our focus on creating industry-leading propositions and we are really excited to be working with PDQ Manufacturing USA and WashTec UK. Together, we are keen to continue to build on the success of these new operations and we are actively reviewing multiple opportunities across the Ascona portfolio to roll out more units such as these.”
Nearly £50,000 of National Lottery funding for community groups in Carmarthenshire
FIVE local community organisations across Carmarthenshire are celebrating after being awarded a share of £49,575 of funding from The National Lottery Community Fund over the past month.
One successful project was MolTân Makers who will use their £9,820 grant to provide metal working workshops for people wishing to improve their mental health and well-being. The group will reach out to mental health groups and the wider community and also allow people to reconnect with the community following the pandemic.
One participant with MolTân Makers explained, “ The course was professionally run by four hard-working people who helped us with one to one tuition when needed. They were so welcoming and adaptable to individual needs and allowed me to attend the course at different hours due to health reasons.
“They were great company and created an interesting and positive atmosphere to help people with mental and physical health problems feel included and understood and we all took home what we made in the course.”
The Hangout received £10,000 and will help young people improve their mental health and wellbeing through structured outdoor activity programmes. The project will build on a previous pilot project that led to more young people becoming re-engaged in school following the pandemic and continuing to volunteer with the group after the initial sessions finished.
The Alternative Learning Company in Llanelli were awarded £9,955 and will recycle plastic bottles to build full size greenhouses. They will propagate plants for growing schemes in local schools and communities. The project will reduce the levels of plastic sent to landfill or polluting open spaces, and give young people an understanding of the impact of climate change.
Newcastle Emlyn Town Council will build an outdoor structure in collaboration with the community, to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s Jubilee. This £10,000 grant will fund building and design materials, and a water harvesting kit.
Messy Projects will use their £9,800 grant to run the activities and events they missed due to the pandemic. Activities will include celebrating the Queens platinum jubilee, a BBQ, and a Bonfire party.
John Rose, Wales Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said “These groups play a vital role in supporting their communities and these grants will allow them to continue being there for people in future.
”National Lottery players raise more than £30 million each week for good causes across the UK and the projects funded over the past month show the crucial difference players make through their tickets. I look forward to following all of their progress.”
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