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Sunday, 20 September 2009

The challenges facing rural Wales

(This is the summary of a speech given at a Plaid Cymru fringe discussion at Conference)

The challenges facing rural Wales cannot be divorced from World aims of producing 2 times the food using less water by 2050 to feed 9 billion people

We need to deal with climate change, be carbon neutral, use less fossil fuels and produce less greenhouse gases. This very much includes farming where dairy cows produce 200 litres of methane per cow per day.

We must secure our own food supply and minimise food waste. Accept that we cannot grow everything cannot live only on mutton, beef and milk. We will still import food.

Food has to be affordable - consumer prices index in August 2008 showed food inflation running at an annual rate of 13.7%. Prices for oils and fats increased by 29% in the year to July 2008, meat by 16.3%, bread and cereals by 15.9%, vegetables by 11.1% and fruit by 10.7%

Targets to increase yields by 50% by 2030 or 100% by 2050 suggests an annual rate of growth in production 1.6%. This has been achieved in recent times but some crops have already reached their genetic potential, particularly in the USA, and it is an open question where do we go from here?

Important methane research at IBERS Aberystwyth to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the food system.

The dependency of the food chain on fossil fuels has implications for all but particularly organic farming. Organic farmers frequently use more fossil fuels to keep crops free from weeds.

Ironic that climate change in all likelyhood will allow us to grow more fruit, vegetables and cereals in Wales as crop growing climate moves westwards.

Last and most important point - water

Wales needs control of its own water. A Welsh Parliament in 2020 will have to decide which valley to flood in order to maintain water supplies! A Welsh Parliament in control of its own water would be a powerful economic entity.

Selling water could solve many economic problems but create many political problems.

1 comment:

Clive King said...

A major challenge for rural areas is keeping those who have drive, ambition and are able to generate wealth. No, I don't mean the armies of local government and Quango officials on significant salaries and defined benefit pensions. I mean people who take the some risk and apply their abilities in business, be it local, national or international. The proposed 50% tax rate for those earning over 50k is a signal that Plaid policy does not want/value successful people who can bring wealth in from outside. This type of policy will only assist in keeping Wales a dependent nation without achieving the aim of improved social inclusion. Tax revenue from 40% of 50k is better than 50% of zero. No holistic economic mastermind behind this policy I fear.