In giving evidence by video link to a committee of the Welsh Parliament this week, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales chief executive Gwyn Howells has emphasised that the current Covid-19 crisis, and the disruption it has caused in food chains, has highlighted the importance of food security for Wales.
Giving evidence to a meeting of the Senedd Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, Mr Howells explained how the lockdown of the foodservice sector and major changes in consumer buying patterns had caused major disruption in supply chains.
He also highlighted how the experience of the coronavirus crisis could inform future policy, and argued that Wales was in a good position to offer a strong, sustainable and high-quality offering for consumers in years to come.
Gwyn Howells commented: “The meeting was a very useful opportunity to explore with Members of the Senedd both the short-term impact of a seismic shift in consumer behaviour on supply chains, and also the long-term implications in terms of our food security.”
He explained, “The crisis has placed a strain on businesses within the sector. Some have been able to innovate and create new local supply chains to meet consumer demand. As we look to the future after the current crisis, we must learn the lessons and ensure that people have a reliable source of high-quality protein, produced to high environmental standards, whatever the disruption caused by external events.”
Howells also reported that livestock prices had stabilised, and that consumer campaigns to promote home cooking of beef and lamb favourites which people had previously enjoyed in restaurants, as well as direct engagement with retailers, was starting to have an effect. But he warned of the continued threat of another blow to the food and farming sector if no trade deal between the UK and EU was concluded by the end of the year.
“Right now is a good time to buy steaks and other premium cuts,” he said. “Following the loss of foodservice markets we engaged with supermarkets and switched resources to online promotion in the domestic market to help ensure a balanced consumption of the carcase.
“However exports to our near neighbours in Europe are still important, particularly for the lamb sector, so we need to avoid compounding the disruption with a damaging No-deal scenario at the end of the year.”