The challenges of Brexit for Wales’s iconic red meat industry were laid out in clear terms as Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat promotion Wales (HCC) gave evidence before a committee of Assembly Members earlier this month.

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HCC chief executive Gwyn Howells was one of a number of industry experts invited to the Welsh Assembly External Affairs Committee as AMs assessed the preparedness of key parts of the Welsh economy for Brexit.

Howells stressed the key role that tariff-free exports play for the industry – particularly for the sheep sector, where a third of pGI Welsh Lamb is currently exported to Europe.

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“The likely impact of EU Exit is varied across different parts of the red meat industry,” said Howells. “However a no-deal Brexit would cause major disruption, particularly for the sheep sector, where Wales is a major net exporter.”

He called for “realism” as to the potential for the UK domestic market to make up for the lack of exports if WTO Tariffs are imposed by the EU.

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“Exports are so important to the sheep sector because UK retailers do not sell all parts of the lamb carcase,” he said.

“It’s important to bear in mind the potential impact of labour shortages on our processing sector, which at present is particularly reliant on trained veterinarians from the EU.

“HCC, in partnership with the industry and Welsh Government, is putting a number of measures in place. Right now we’re implementing a Business Benchmarking programme for farms, as well as accelerating our drive to develop new markets outside the EU in the Middle East and elsewhere, with both projects supported by Welsh Government funding.

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“However, the issues we face if we have a sudden disruption in EU trade in March 2019 are stark, with huge implications for livestock farmers, meat processors, and the wider supply chain which depends on them,” he said.

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