● In Wales itself, 48,000 people are directly employed in on-farm production and food manufacturing. In the wider supply-chain, 170,000 are employed.
● Exports are growing in Wales - it is seen as an industry with a lot of potential. Between 1999 and 2013, exports increased 132%.
● The UK as a whole is heavily dependent on other EU member states for food. Of the food consumed in the UK, just 60% of it is produced here. The UK is particularly reliant on imports for some foods, especially fruit and vegetables.
● The UK suffers a huge food trade gap of £21bn.
● There has been significant discussion regarding the impact of a Brexit on the farming industry. However, this is only a part of the wider food industry - 6 times as many people are employed outside farming within that industry in the UK.
What are the benefits of EU membership?
● Membership of the European common market gives us access to a huge variety of food products, that we would otherwise have to pay a premium for. It also provides a vast customer base for the food that is produced in Wales.
● Much of the detailed food safety regulations originate from the EU. This ensures that the food produced in Wales, and that which we import from abroad, are subject to the same safety standards, and we know that we can trust what we are consuming.
● Welsh products have benefited from EU quality standards on food.
● Experts agree that there needs to be a significant change of direction in both the production and consumption of food. There are a number of important factors in the industry that need to be addressed, including sustainability, demographic change, changes in diet, changes in supply chains, and the necessity for a shift to healthier foods. These are international issues that cannot be solved independently - and the EU gives us an opportunity to discuss and solve these issues on an international scale.
What would happen if we left the EU?
● The uncertainty that a Brexit would bring would almost certainly make the price of Sterling fall considerably. This would mean that importing food would be considerably more expensive - and we have seen how much Wales and the UK relies on importing food.
● On a more long-term basis, leaving the EU means we lose access to the single market - unless we follow all of the EU’s rules and regulations. If we leave the common market, we would almost certainly see tariffs placed on our goods by the EU, meaning the Welsh food industry loses a considerable advantage when trading with European countries. The industry would suffer considerably from more exposure to international food prices and competition with large trading blocs.
● If we were to leave the EU, the UK could scrap much of the food safety regulation that is currently enforced at an EU level. Multinational corporations will actively pressure the British Government to weaken these regulations as a means of maintaining their profits.