Lamb producers have enjoyed a very good year in 2020. A significant increase in lamb imports by China, combined with tighter supply globally, has contributed to high prices and confidence in the sector, with prevailing market prices typically 10% to 15% higher than last year. However, we recognise that historically the lamb sector has been more reliant on the EU market than most other farming sectors, so we stand ready to help it identify new markets in future.
I hope you did not find me very strange, Mr Speaker. Upland sheep farming is hugely important to my constituency, which is why, I, like those farmers, very much welcomed the Secretary of State’s comments yesterday at the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee that he does have well-developed plans in place to support upland sheep farming in the event that a deal is not possible with the EU. Perhaps he could set out some further reassurance to those farmers today, because many of them have to take decisions right now about their forward planning and what would be in place if there is no deal with the EU.
I can say that 18 months ago, in preparation for the first potential no-deal, the Government, working with the Rural Payments Agency, had developed detailed plans to be able to support the sector in the short term. Those plans are still there and still ready to be activated, but in the medium term, in the event of there being no further negotiated outcome, we will be helping the sector identify new markets.