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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 16:11 GMT
Cash-strapped farmers face change
Carwyn Jones and farmers
Carwyn Jones at a farmer's market in north Wales
Farmers in north east Wales have told the Welsh Assembly's Rural Affairs Minister they have been forced to set out their stalls to subsidise their incomes and sell directly to the public.

Carwyn Jones spoke to farmers - angry at the crisis in agriculture - during their monthly market in Wrexham.

Anna Platt
Anna Platt has been forced to diversify

Russ Latham, from Overton, told the minister that the situation had become desperate.

"It is tough and farmers' markets will not save us.

"We used to employ 30 people, just on our little farm, making cheese and butter and now there's 12 of us left."

Anna Platt, from Minera, has been coming to the market for five weeks selling lamb and beef from her farm.

She said her family had been forced to find other ways to sell their produce.

"We do have a market stall in the butchers market but things have gone quiet there so we've had to diversify."

We've found it really tough in the last 3 or 4 years, its nearly wiped us out really

Russ Latham, Farmer

"Foot-and-mouth has really hit us this year, it has been quieter and we've had to diversify and try this."

Mr Jones has re-assured farmers that rescue packages following the foot-and-mouth crisis are in place.

The on-going cost of the foot-and-mouth crisis on farming and tourism in Wales has run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

But Keith Thompson from the National Farmers Union(NFU) said that is not the only problem they are facing.

Ongoing crisis

"There is an on-going crisis in the industry; we had the beef crisis three or four years ago, then we ran into foot-and-mouth - now we've still got this ever pressing sterling crisis."

Mr Thompson and his colleagues believe the situation will only improve when Britain joins the single european currency.

"Currency fluctuation doesn't help anybody - join the euro that's the answer to that."

Carwyn Jones agrees that could be the way forward: "My personal opinion is that we will end up joining it.

"It doesn't make any sense for farmers or the manufacturing business to be out of it - the big question is when you actually join."

Three and a half years ago I had a full time man, reluctantly we had to let him go

Keith Thompson, Farmer

Many farmers say the situation is so bad that they are facing bankruptcy while more than 5,000 people involved in dairy farming lost their jobs last year.

Mrs Latham said farming will take time to recover.

"The dairy industry is all over the place with the milk price, farmers have only just got the milk price up and its going right back down again.

"We've found it really tough in the last three or four years - it's nearly wiped us out."

Keith Thompson supplies the Latham farm with milk but because they are having difficulty selling their produce, his milk price has been scaled back by 10%.

Most farmers receive less than 10p for every pint they sell, while supermarkets charge up to three times that amount to the customer.

Carwyn Jones and farmers
Farmers believe the euro could save them

"What we have to do is make sure is that the price of milk moves upwards, now the Government can't do that but clearly we want to encourage people to produce," said Carwyn Jones.

NFU President Ben Gill has told dairy farmers that working together in the supply chain is the key to building a long-term future.

"Of course the foot-and-mouth crisis has devastated many dairy farms and affected all producers.

"As the threat recedes, all dairy farmers need to reflect on the future direction of the industry and their role in it."

See also:

03 Jan 02 | Wales
Farm crisis costs reach 500m
23 Feb 01 | Business
Counting the cost of the disease
01 Apr 01 | Wales
Foot-and-mouth factfile
27 Feb 01 | Wales
Farmer 'devastated' by outbreak
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