Written evidence submitted by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HIL0002)


Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is the statutory industry-led levy organisation responsible for the development, promotion and marketing of Welsh lamb, beef and pork. It undertakes promotional campaigns at home and abroad, is involved in research and development which benefits the efficiency and sustainability of the whole red meat supply chain, as well as collating and analysing market intelligence.


HCC has been asked to comment on the impact of major policy changes, particularly international trade and climate change, on family farms in Wales.



How unique are family farms and how significant is their contribution to Wales’ cultural life? 


Wales is characterised by an upland and mountainous topography. This landscape, alongside the maritime climate of Wales, result in a large proportion of agricultural land (80 percent)[1] being categorised as ‘less favoured areas’ (LFA). The climate and terrain in Wales therefore dictate the type of agricultural landuse, resulting in the majority of the land being best suited to pasture and livestock farming (sheep and cattle).


Wales’ agricultural land is divided between 25,000 active holdings (2019),[2] with an average holding size of 48 hectares (compared to an average size of 87 hectares in England).[3] Holdings in Wales are therefore generally considered small, and most, particularly those located in the hills and uplands, are family-run. 


The agricultural sector in Wales, underpinned by these family-run hill and upland livestock holdings, provide vital economic activity and employment in rural areas, which supports rural community cohesion, provides cultural and well-being benefits and safeguards Wales’ extensive natural resources. A thriving agricultural sector (underpinned by family farms) also contributes to social capital in rural areas in the form of co-operation and mutual support, both within the farming community and between farm businesses and the wider community.








What are the main challenges facing family farms specifically, and farming communities more generally, in Wales? 

Uncertainty over agricultural policy and support post Brexit, and the extent of continued restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and anticipated non-tariff barriers as a result of Brexit; alongside the climate crisis, present significant challenges for the Welsh agricultural sector, both at a farming communities’ level and at a family farm level.








What are the potential implications of free trade agreements for farmers in Wales? 


Tariffs and trade are the foremost concerns relating to the UK trade discussions.







How, if at all, is the UK Government’s climate change policy agenda impacting on family farms, including the future generations of farmers, and rural communities in Wales? 


In late 2020, working with scientists in Bangor University, in collaboration with the University of Limerick, HCC published a document on Welsh red meat production, its climate impact and potential mitigation activitiesThe Welsh Way.[16] This document places Welsh livestock production in its global context, uses the latest methodology to measure emissions and carbon sequestration on beef and sheep farms, identifies where further improvements can be made, and articulates a vision that Wales has the potential to be a global leader in sustainable meat production.


The document highlights that an overly-simplistic approach to policy in the area of climate change, diet, land use and global food security risks having negative consequences. It concludes that recognition should be made that production systems in Wales are vastly different from the damaging and intensive farming practices that are employed in other parts of the world, and that Welsh livestock farming has an opportunity to be part of the solution to climate change. This conclusion has since been amplified by work at Cambridge University led by Professor Donald Broom.[17]



What practical steps can the UK Government take to support these communities and how should the UK and Welsh governments work together to support these communities’ unique culture, including their contribution to the Welsh language, and heritage? 


Welsh Government policy post-Brexit proposes to support the agricultural sector adjust to future market forces and thrive in a global marketplace whilst protecting natural resources. It is therefore crucial that when implementing these policies that the Welsh Government ensure any changes do not adversely impact on the essential role of agriculture in food production, the rural community and in wider cultural and well-being elements.


A prosperous and resilient Welsh agricultural industry can have far reaching benefits, in terms of growing the rural economy, safeguarding jobs, enhancing natural resources and preserving Welsh culture, heritage and language. Therefore, a strategic focus is needed, which is market driven and outcome focussed:





Radical changes in land-use do not offer the most effective way to maximise rural Wales’ contribution to mitigating climate change. Maintaining a critical mass of livestock production helps ensure the economic and cultural sustainability of Wales, and assists in meeting its global food security obligations.





Concern over the global effects of climate change and reports that intensive red meat production produces large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions have fuelled demand for red meat consumption to be significantly reduced or even eliminated from the human diet and substituted with plant-based protein. However, there is a need to balance the perceived negative contribution of livestock to the environment against the positive benefit in terms of food security.





Sept 2021



[1] Welsh Government. Agriculture in Wales. 2019.

[2] HCC. Little Book of Meat Facts: Compendium of Welsh Red Meat and Livestock Industry Statistics 2020.

[3] DEFRA. Agriculture in the United Kingdom 2020.

[4] Welsh Government. Aggregate agricultural output and income. 2020.

[5] StatsWales. Gross Value Added in Wales by industry. 2019.

[6] Welsh Government. Agriculture in Wales. 2019.

[7] Welsh Government. Survey of Agriculture and Horticulture: Results for Wales. June 2020.

[8] Welsh Government. Agriculture in Wales. 2019.

[9] Amaeth Cymru. The future of agriculture in Wales: the way forward. 2017.

[10] Data from the 2011 census which is the most recently available population data.

[11] Welsh Government. Agriculture in Wales. 2019.

[12] Welsh Government. June 2020 Survey of Agriculture and Horticulture: Results for Wales. 17 December 2020.

[13] Welsh Government. Agriculture in Wales. 2019.

[14] Welsh Government. Agriculture in Wales. 2019.

[15] HCC calculations using HMRC data. 2020.

[16] HCC. The Welsh Way: Towards Global Leadership in Sustainable Lamb and Beef Production. 2020. https://meatpromotion.wales/en/industry-resources/environment

[17] D Broom. Biological Reviews. A method for assessing sustainability, with beef production as an example. 06 May 2021.

[18] Hybu Cig Cymru Meat and Health based on the Meat Advisory Panel (now Food Advisory Board) nutritional factsheets. (2020).