Simon Thomas –
Could the Member just give way on that?
Just to inform the Member that the committee intends to do another report, launched in the Royal Welsh Show, on food in Wales.
Lovely. Well, I look forward to that. So, I’m glad that that is something that will be addressed. One of the things that you could focus on, perhaps, in that report, is the fact that there are over 79 million ready meals eaten in the United Kingdom every week. So, where’s our ambition to grow in this area? What’s the infrastructure, training and support that we need to put in place to make that happen?
I highly applaud the emphasis put in this report on using public procurement to drive demand for Welsh produce. In particular, Welsh quality processed produce, but this must be a platform to drive the conversation with the big boys, with the supermarkets, who are the really serious players who buy our goods. Also not mentioned in the report was any reference to compensation for people who work on the land in the framework of the CAP. This is particularly important in relation to TB in cattle, or if there is a future outbreak of foot and mouth disease. I hope that’s something that the committee will be able to look at in future as well. Some of these issues will be explored in the economic development plan for rural Wales, which I’ll be publishing next week.
In relation to the workforce and the potential threat if we were to restrict access to EU seasonal agricultural workers, a recent report suggested that the cost of fruit could go up by 50 per cent in the United Kingdom if seasonal workers were not allowed in. But it’s not just about the fruit pickers: 60 per cent of abattoir staff are EU nationals and 98 per cent of vets in abattoirs are EU nationals. So, the amount we’d have to pay British staff would be considerably more. So, the price of our meat would inevitably rise and don’t forget that this could be at a time when we’d be flooded with cheap meat from Argentina, New Zealand and elsewhere.