Examination of Witnesses (Questions 76-79)
MR HUGH RICHARDS, MRS MARGOT BATEMAN, MRS MARY JAMES, MR BRIAN WALTERS, MR TERRY BAYLISS AND MR SIOÔN ARON JONES
TUESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2001
76. Welcome today. This is only the second time we have had the FUW and NFU at the same platform and I think two of the witnesses we have here gave evidence in 1997 at our first inquiry into this issue, but were you not on different sides?
(Mrs James) But for the same industry!
Mrs Williams: She has practised her reply.
77. Thank you for coming, as I said. I understand that this clashes with the Welsh Winter Fair but we did not have a lot of option because the Committee felt that it was important that we revisited this inquiry. We wanted to do it as quickly as possible, before Christmas if possible, and we had two slots before Christmas. We needed to get the views of the farming industry before we talk to the Competition Commission so it had to be this week rather than next week. I do appreciate that you have come here today, and I am sure your members would also appreciate the fact you have come here rather than going to the Welsh Winter Fair. Could you begin by introducing yourselves? Perhaps we could go left to right, I do not want to give anybody precedence in this matter. If we start on that side and then perhaps we could have a short statement on the current climate of farming in Wales. We are very focused on the views of the Competition Commission. Related to our previous inquiry we, as a Committee, felt that the Competition Commission did not produce the result that having looked at it in detail as a Committee we believed they would have come out with. I do not know who is leading for the FUW.
(Mr Bayliss) Terry Bayliss, Vice President of the Farmers' Union of Wales and also Chairman of Farmers First.
(Mr Jones) Siôn Aron Jones, Policy Officer, FUW
(Mr Walters) Brian Walters, Vice President of Farmers' Union of Wales and also on the regional board of First Milk.
(Mr Richards) Hugh Richards, President of NFU Cymru Wales.
(Mrs James) Mary James, Deputy Director and Head of Policy, NFU Cymru.
(Mrs Bateman) Margaret Bateman, Farmer and NFU member. I am also involved with the Agri-Food Partnership.
78. Thank you very much. Would you like to make a statement, Mr Walters?
(Mr Walters) First of all, FUW would like to thank you for the opportunity of giving evidence here today, in spite of the fact, as you mentioned, we were disappointed that it clashed with the Winter Fair. That is the reason why our President is not here but he felt it significantly important to send two Vice-Presidents on his behalf. We feel honoured that we can represent him. Agriculture continues to be the backbone of the rural economy in Wales providing 90 per cent of GDP. Perhaps an interesting figure really is 80 per cent of the Welsh land mass is classified as Less Favoured Area and shows there are significant problems to farm in Wales. Eleven per cent of the total UK herd of the dairy industry is in Wales, 25 per cent of the national sheep flock is also in Wales, and 13 per cent of the UK national herd of beef is in Wales. As far as the previous report, our feeling is that nothing much has changed in relation to that. Farmers have reacted and I am sure you have got our evidence which highlights some specific issues. Personally I have reacted by going as an organic farmer, and I am sure you will be anxious to question that later on. I think I will leave it there, I prefer to have questions from you rather than give a statement.
79. Just on a point of clarification, did I hear you right when you said 19 per cent of GDP for Wales.
(Mr Walters) Ninety, of the Welsh agriculture. Perhaps I did not finish the phrase.