Agricultural Policy

Promising results from new Bovine TB test but still no holistic approach in Wales

Cattle herds in Wales and England have been involved in on-farm trials of the new Enferplex Bovine TB antibody test.

It has been designed to detect infected animals that the currently approved tuberculin skin test and gamma blood test have missed.

Early results are being reported as positive with 2,500 samples returning 23.4% Enferplex positive results. The test is believed to have a specificity of between 98.4 and 99.7% and a sensitivity of between 89.4 and 94.5%, meaning that it can detect up to 94.5% of confirmed infected animals within a herd when tested 5-30 days after a skin test.

While the Enferplex test has been approved by the World Organisation for Animal Health to be used as a TB test for cattle, it remains unapproved for regular testing in the UK.

The FUW continues to support a holistic approach which is guided by science to eradicate TB in Wales, however, there is the concern that introducing another test will further encourage the ‘reactive’ approach rather than shifting towards ‘preventative’ measures.

Major issues face UK food supply chains

Reports in the media over recent weeks have revealed major issues for UK food supply chains given shortages in HGV drivers and the lack of CO₂ for the slaughter of animals and food packaging.

The shortfall of around 100,000 HGV drivers has affected many major retailers and food service outlets including Iceland and McDonalds after around a quarter of these drivers returned to the EU due to Brexit and Covid-19.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has long maintained that issues such as this would come to light as a result of a Brexit outcome that meant barriers between the UK and EU.

The UK Government has since announced that a package of measures will be introduced to help tackle the HGV driver shortage, including temporary visas for 5,000 fuel tanker and food delivery drivers to work in the UK in the lead up to Christmas and a streamlined process for new drivers to obtain their HGV licence.

News in Brief September 2021

i) Proposed lift on USA lamb ban welcome news for industry

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has welcomed news that the long standing ban on importing Welsh lamb into the United States is to be lifted soon. The announcement was made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday 22 September.

The FUW has long discussed the prospect of lifting the unjustified ban with the USDA in various meetings over the past decades. Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales have highlighted that the potential market for PGI Welsh Lamb in the USA is estimated to be worth as much as £20 million a year within five years of the export restrictions being removed.

Now more than ever it is important to explore other export markets while also protecting long established markets in Europe. The news that this ban could soon be lifted is most welcome news for the UK sheep industry.

ii) UK cheese exports up by 17 percent

Latest HMRC figures suggest that UK cheese exports totalled 2,300 tonnes in the first three months of 2021, a 17 percent increase on 2020.

While Brexit has disrupted cheese exports to the EU, exports to New Zealand, Australia and South Korea increased by 26, 3 and over 200 percent respectively during the first quarter.

However, total UK dairy exports were down during the same period compared with 2020 due to high domestic demand from consumers and the shut down of foodservice outlets on the continent.

iii) UK Government plans to support food exports

Announced on Back British Farming Day 2021, the UK Government plans to support businesses who export UK food and drink through a new initiative set to be launched later this year.

The initiative will include appointing agri-food representatives to work towards accessing new export markets, establishing a Food and Drink Exports Council to work on the export strategy alongside the devolved nations and engaging with farmers and producers to ensure that they benefit from new market opportunities.

RPW 2021 payments update

RPW will be issuing 2021 BPS Advance Payments from 15 October 2021, which will be 70% of your estimated total claim value. Please note that the payment may not be issued if, for example, the necessary supporting documents have not been submitted, there is an ongoing land dispute, significant breaches have been identified during an inspection or there are outstanding probate issues.

The 30% balance payments will be issued from 15 December 2021 subject to claims having been fully validated.

It is also important that if you receive a notification from RPW Online that there is a new message on your account that you log in to your account to check it, as the message could be asking for additional information in relation to your BPS claim, which if not actioned, could delay the release of your payment.

UK Government announces changes to trailer and HGV tests

It is particularly noticeable in some areas of the UK that the shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers is having an impact on the food supply chain.

The Haulage and Logistics industry has reported that the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK has increased from 45,000 in 2016 to 76,000 by today.

While there are likely to be a number of different reasons for these shortages, the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and the Brexit immigration system have placed great pressure on haulage and logistical services.

Therefore, following a recent consultation, the UK Government has confirmed that changes will be made to the trailer and HGV testing regimes in order to speed up the process for drivers to qualify.

Currently, those who passed their driving test after 1st January 1997 cannot tow anything where the trailer and towing vehicle is more than 3,500 kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM). To tow anything over this threshold, they must pass a car and trailer (B+E) test.