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Welsh Lamb Exports

Volume 688: debated on Wednesday 3 February 2021

The UK Government have taken significant steps to support and promote Welsh lamb exports around the world. That includes securing a tariff-free, quota-free deal with the EU and securing the protection of the Welsh lamb geographical indicator as part of the Japan deal.

Rules on international trade require sanitary and phytosanitary rules to be based on risk and science, so will the Government put immediate pressure on the European Union to lift the unreasonable compliance requirements it is imposing on British food exports? They are disproportionate, given that our food standards and rules are among the very toughest in the whole world.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, particularly in her last point, and I can offer that guarantee. We are in regular contact with our colleagues in the EU about this specific point, and there are meetings later this week involving the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on this and related issues.

Lamb exporters in west Wales have raised concerns about the delays they are facing at EU ports, reporting that some shipments have been held by customs officials for two to three days because of to the supposed issues with animal export health certificates. Can the Secretary of State enlighten us as to whether he expects an urgent resolution to this problem?

I do not know how “urgent” would be defined in the EU at the moment, but certainly there is an urgency to resolve some of these problems. As I have mentioned, there are some teething issues that can be resolved quite quickly. If there are longer-term structural issues, they need to be looked at in more detail. I have sheep farming interests in my constituency, as does the hon. Member, and it is worth pointing out that there are some big opportunities across the rest of the world that we should be exploring, rather than necessarily just concentrating on some of the difficulties with the EU.

Welsh lamb is a premium product that is wanted across the world. Welshpool livestock market, which is usually the heart of my farming community, is quieter because of covid, but the sheep meat prices are still robust. Will the Secretary of State meet me, farmers and slaughterhouses in Montgomeryshire to discuss the health certificates and the wider SPS issues on the EU border, which are clearly out of order?

I am always happy to meet my hon. Friend and his constituents; I used to live in his constituency, so I know some of them quite well. He is right to raise this issue. One of the companies in question is meeting the Cabinet Office later this week; that is progress. I am delighted that Welshpool mart has done some good business. I see that lamb prices have increased by around 17% in 2021, and consumer spending was £652 million, but the rest-of-the-world opportunities that I mentioned—particularly the Gulf, the middle east and the US, once we get the small ruminant rule resolved—will help the lamb industry across Wales and the UK.