CAP reform is clearly one of the biggest issues for both the Welsh Government and the farming community in Wales. By the end of December, around 95% of Welsh farmers had received their Single Payment Scheme payments which totalled £241 million. This shows just how important the CAP is to the rural economy in Wales.
Just before Christmas I launched ‘CAP Reform; Conversation on the way forward for Wales’ a discussion paper to stimulate a nationwide debate on the issues and I would urge you all to visit the Welsh Government website to read the document and have your say. I want the Welsh Government’s formal response to the proposed reforms to speak for the whole of Wales, so I need to know what Wales thinks.
Another important issue is the ‘Working Smarter’ review that Gareth Williams has undertaken on my behalf. I received Gareth’s report last month and it made some interesting Christmas reading for me. I will be considering it further over the next week or two and will be issuing a formal response early in the new Assembly term.
Working Smarter will present excellent opportunities for us to streamline the way the Government and the industry does business with each other; reduce bureaucracy and inspections; and improve the regulation of the industry. It is a task l look forward to taking on this year and I would like to thank Gareth for his hard work on the review.
2012 also sees the rolling out of the Glastir All Wales Element. The first contracts are now operational and I’m sure that the first farmers to sign-up to the scheme are planning their work already. The number of contracts signed is encouraging and augres well for the next couple of years as more and more famers are expected to sign up when their existing agri-environment agreements come to an end. I am very pleased that the reassurance I gave last year that farmers who wish to withdraw from Glastir as a result of any future CAP Pillar One greening requirements will not be penalised, appears to have encouraged more people to sign-up. The greening issue is still an area we are discussing with both the UK Government and at a European level and the final outcome will not be known for some time.
This year also promises to be an exciting year for our food producers. As a result of a Welsh Government supported showcase event, Welsh companies are set to start selling their goods in Harrods this month, which speaks volumes for the quality of Welsh ingredients and the skills of our producers. Furthermore, following a successful trade mission by Hybu Cig Cymru last September, Welsh Lamb is now being shipped to Canada and is going from strength to strength there, as well as selling very well in other, more established markets.
Our drinks industry is also very important and we are seeing a growing international reputation for our beer, cider, perry, wine, and spirits brands. As a result of the drinks industry summit held in September 2011, I will be publishing a plan of action later this year for a trade development initiative which will provide the sector with specific expertise such as market intelligence, marketing and branding, and exports amongst others.
We have an exciting and challenging year ahead of us. I hope it is a happy and prosperous one for you all.