2016-10-19   facebooktwitterrss

Importance of Sheep Sector in Brexit Negotiations

Having participated in a series of four sheep meat reflection group meetings in Brussels over the last 12 months, the National Sheep Association (NSA) welcomes the resulting report and recognises its importance to the UK sector despite the forthcoming break from the EU.

Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, instigated the formation of the sheep meat forum in response to the fragility of the sheep sector across Europe. He tasked the group, which involved representatives of EU member states, to consider the factors of falling sheep numbers and declining sheep meat consumption and how this jeopardises the many public goods delivered by sheep farming businesses. Such public goods include eco-system services, development of rural economies, animal welfare, rural tourism and preservation of heritage.

Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development

Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development

Joanne Briggs, NSA Policy Officer for England, attended the four meetings in Brussels, which included the release of the report on Thursday last week (13th October). She says: “The concise report, incorporating submissions from forum representatives including NSA, UK levy bodies and UK farming unions, was pulled together by an Irish team handpicked by Commissioner Hogan. It makes around 20 sound recommendations and highlights two in particular.

“NSA is very supportive of the recommendation to increase promotion of lamb within the EU to curb decline in consumption. The UK is the biggest producer of lamb in Europe and a global exporter and, as such, would like to see more people enjoy lamb and appreciate how consumption is beneficial for human health and allows sheep farmers to deliver a whole range of additional public goods in rural areas. Generic campaigns such as ‘Lamb: Tasty, Easy, Fun’ have been instrumental in promoting an ‘eat the landscape’ message and we need more of this.

“However, the other highlighted recommendation in the report was for increased CAP support for sheep farmers and, specifically, coupled support across all EU member states. Payments coupled to livestock numbers is not something the UK Government had an appetite for even before the EU referendum result, and many UK livestock farmers and NSA have reservations themselves, but if it is taken up across Europe at a time when our Government is looking to replace existing agricultural support with a post-Brexit successor, we could find ourselves at a huge competitive disadvantage in the future.

“NSA believes the UK Government should be aware of the EU report, not least because its very existence is a result of pan-EU concern about the fragility of the sheep sector and sensitivity of lamb as a product. This is as true in the UK as it is anywhere else in Europe. NSA will be highlighting the report recommendations that are pertinent to the UK, but we also need to be aware of the recommendations that look likely to be taken up by other EU member states and could therefore affect sheep farmers here.”


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