Foneddigion a Boneddigesau. Mae’n bleser gennyf fod yma heddiw i agor yr enghraifft nodedig hon o fentergarwch ffermwyr. [Delighted to be here today to open this remarkable example of farmer enterprise.]
As many of you know, I have been battling for some time now on behalf of small and medium-sized abattoirs so I was thrilled to accept Mr Davies’s invitation to open this new facility for the Pembrokeshire Meat Company.
I hardly need to explain to this audience just why abattoirs such as this one matter. But without doubt, the viability of the livestock sector – and, of the greatest importance, proper standards of animal welfare - depend upon them. It is worth reminding everyone that before this abattoir was built, getting to the nearest slaughterhouse involved a journey of a hundred miles, which meant unnecessary stress for animals as well as higher transport costs for farmers.
What is particularly special about this project, which I hope might become a model for farmers throughout the United Kingdom, is that it has sixty shareholders, nearly all of whom are local farmers and butchers.
Of course, nothing could have happened without the additional support of the Welsh Development Agency, the Welsh Assembly, ‘Investing in Pembrokeshire’ and, inevitably, the dear old bank, in this case NatWest.
But this project does demonstrate just what can be achieved by successful co-operation between farmers, and that by working together, so much more can be achieved than working separately.
But of course, projects such as this need leaders, and of most importance to the success of this project has been the Davies family. Their company, Welsh Hook, which specializes in organic meat and particularly Welsh Black beef (I have eaten it on a number of occasions, and very good it is too!) recognized that to remain competitive, it needed a local abattoir.
But rather than just talk about it, the company came up with a plan and turned it into reality. Not only does this mean that organic farmers have a dedicated local abattoir, which is essential, but all the farmers here in Pembrokeshire, many of whom are small, family farmers, now have a local facility.
This has already increased the value of their stock, because local butchers and suppliers can now buy from local farms and farmers can sell their stock at farmers’ markets and to the local cutting plant supplying the catering trade.
I do just want to say a word about the importance of family farms. I happen to believe that they are the very foundation of our rural communities. These farmers, often working on a smaller scale, are the true guardians of our countryside: they not only care for the land and keep it as beautiful as it is, but they provide children for the local schools and custom for the village shop and pub.
And on top of that, they have inherited knowledge about how to farm the land; they understand the soil and the weather; and they know the crops and livestock that do best. We cannot stand by and let these farmers leave the land, because with them departs wisdom which has been accumulated over many generations. We depend on them. In an ever more uncertain world, I happen to think that food security becomes increasingly important and we must ensure that this country is able to produce as much to supply its own needs as possible. We cannot do that unless we keep farmers farming.
Rwyf am longyfarch pawb sy’n rhan o’r fenter…
[I do congratulate all those involved,]
I could not be more pleased to open the Pembrokeshire Meat Company abattoir and I hope that you will be an inspiration to the rest of the British agricultural community.