The Welsh red meat market has seen growth in 2016, highlighting its importance to the domestic agricultural sector.
According to Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), for the entire year, the combined value of sheep and cattle represented 44% of overall Welsh agricultural output, more than any other sector. The sheep sector value rose by £10 million (m) to £267m in 2016 compared to 2015.
John Richards, HCC industry information executive, said: “The main driving factor for increased output in the sheep sector included improved market conditions, especially in the second half of the year, helped by the weaker sterling against the euro.
“Positively, a second statistical bulletin has shown that farm income forecasts in Wales for 2016/17 have also increased in line with sheep and cattle outputs. This information provides a useful indication of long-term trends and could provide some confidence to the red meat sector which has experienced, and is facing, a period of uncertainty due to Brexit.”
The average farm business income for less favoured area (LFA) cattle and sheep farms is forecast to stand at £27,500 per farm for 2016/17. This is around £5,600 higher than the figure for the previous year, an increase of 26%. It is also the highest figure seen in five years.
Richards added: “Improved market prices for beef, and sheep in particular, when compared to the previous 12 months would have influenced the increase. The overriding factor, however, would have been the increase seen in Basic Farm Payments due to the weaker pound; it is estimated that this exchange rate fluctuation would have led to a 17% increase in the payment level. These improved returns will hopefully increase farmer confidence to invest in their businesses.
“A striking feature of these figures is the importance of support payment to annual farm incomes. Without this income stream, many farms in Wales would have a negative margin.”