BWMB’s Welsh Regional Chairman Iwan Price-Davies says there is a danger that the critical mass of the sheep industry in Wales could be lost if the role sheep play in sustaining many rural economies is not recognised in time.
"It is not just farmers who benefit from the Welsh sheep industry, there are a large number of ancillary and allied trades which all earn a living off the back of sheep farming, including vets, agricultural merchants, feed manufacturers and many other local businesses. Without sheep farming many thriving and vibrant Welsh communities would disappear."
Mr Price-Davies said it was critical that Welsh sheep farmers received a positive message from policy makers as they were the central core of the Welsh farming industry and the foundation block of the economies many Welsh rural communities were built on.
"Both hill and lowland farmers are critical to the future of the Welsh sheep industry and the interaction between the two sectors is vital for a vibrant, thriving Welsh sheep sector. Without hill farmers the Welsh sheep industry would crumble, not only do they produce the foundation breeding stock for the lowland sheep sector, but they also use some of the poorest quality land in the UK to produce top quality Welsh lamb which is renowned the world over.
"A loss of the critical mass from the sheep sector would threaten much of the infrastructure currently in place, including BWMB depots, abattoirs and livestock markets. All of these facilities are run on relatively fine margins and rely on having sufficient throughput to operate. Any significant reductions in Welsh sheep numbers could leave any of them questioning their future and see increased transport and other associated costs added to the industry," he said.
Mr Price-Davies pointed to the current proposed Moorland rate payments as a clear sign that the true value of the Welsh hill farming community was being undervalued. "The current rates are not a true reflection of the current land use and if they are implemented it will have an impact on future sheep numbers as many farmers may chose to cut stocking rates further compounding the issue of under-grazing in the uplands."
He said it was also important to recognise the role the farming community had in shaping the Welsh landscape which is beloved of many tourists.
"The Welsh tourism industry has been built on the back of the farmed landscape, including both the lowland and upland farmed environments. It is essential that farmers are encouraged to farm sustainably to maintain the current landscape and access routes for tourists wishing to visit some of the most picturesque landscapes in Europe."
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