It may come as no surprise to readers that during the turmoil of both Brexit and Covid-19, the UK’s newly found independence has seen a rise in more locally sourced livestock sales, especially here in Wales.
With both Brexit and Covid-19 having an impact on the way people are consuming, we’ve seen a rise in customers trying to source quality, local produce. Although Brexit left farmers uncertain on their relationships with EU buyers, the rise in locally sourced produce has aided them massively. We want to know how the Hybu Cig Cymru Meat Promotion Wales (HCCMPW) figures demonstrate the effect of farmers on the ground and how much Brexit or Covid-19 had to do with it.
Easter 2021 saw HCCMPW’s analysts have an opportunity to look at the rise in sales and start to predict how farmers have done post-Brexit, where retail prices have rocketed higher than the last two years for lamb. This demand reflected at livestock markets, where farm gate prices stood strong, saw Wales now as a tough contender for quality sourcing local produce.
According to HCCMPW’s research, the average weight price of lambs at auction in Wales has increased steadily since the start of 2021, going up again this week by 13.1p. The average price for cull ewe has also increased this week by £4.60 to average £77.80/head. To summarise this, farmers are receiving an additional £7 per head this year compared to last.
Even though demand has risen, the Brexit uncertainty definitely resulted in a weaker supply from the market. Farmers' were forced to bring forward lambs meant for sale the following year to achieve demand, slaughter data shows farmers brought forward the number of lambs they farmed last year (May-December) for figures to increase by 1.9%. Demand being higher than expected last year meant higher prices for lamb and farmers having to sell stock scheduled for sale in 2021. However farmers' own initiative last year to handle the uncertainty, gives the impression they will achieve the same this year in fulfilling the demand.
When talking to Daphne Tilley, the renowned owner of Daphne’s Welsh Lamb Ltd about how the rise in demand but lack of supply has affected the way her farm has adjusted, it was clear that the increase in demand was unexpected for them. The farm has struggled with the Brexit uncertainty she explained, having assumed the government would be raising import tax following January’s deadline. In preparation, they actually cut their stock as they were unsure of what kind of relationship they would now have with EU partners, contributing to the lack of supply shown in HCCMPW’s figures. Luckily the import tax didn’t rise so prices stayed high, but that still left them with a high demand and less supply. Interestingly, Covid-19 meant that Daphne’s partnerships with retail businesses thrived as the demand for home cooking grew. Daphne’s farm benefited just like others in local livestock sales and the loyalty shown by their main partners in the UK meant they were able to have some strong success throughout both Covid-19 and the Brexit uncertainty.
Analysts have also stated, with the food sector opening back up again and more people dining out, these numbers may not be sustainable for the whole year. We do hope that local continued support for our hard working farmers keeps figures strong. What we do know for certain is the Welsh livestock market this year is something to be watched, as farmers refuse to falter in its ever changing requirements creating success come rain or shine.