Maintaining trade and export activity at a time of crisis is vital.

We have learned this from the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns.

This period has perhaps been the greatest challenge in a generation for Wales’ food and agri industries but in terms of trade the biggest challenge may be yet to come.

The UK will leave the European Union on December 31st, with or without a trade deal. There will be no extension to the transition period, we are leaving on that day come what may.

It is true that the threat of a meaningful deadline can get results but it is hugely optimistic to expect the process to be completed within this time period and that puts the country back into no-deal territory.

That is a dangerous place to be.

Take the position of Welsh lamb producers.

If there is no deal, we are likely to have to trade with other countries according to tariff schedules agreed under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation.

That could spell tough times for farmers in Wales in particular.

Vast areas of our farmland are grazed by sheep, just under a third of all the sheep in the UK in fact.

Yet only 5 per cent of lamb produced in Wales is consumed in this country.

Forty per cent is exported and of that percentage, 90 per cent is sold into Europe.

If European importers suddenly have to pay considerably more for Welsh meat, they could well switch to suppliers in other countries.

Analysis from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board suggests that World Trade Organisation tariffs could add anything from 38 per cent to 91 per cent to the price of Welsh sheep meat for EU buyers.

It is true that some trade experts point out that non-tariff barriers to trade – like increased paperwork, health and safety regulations and labelling rules – can raise the price of goods as much as direct tariffs do.

On January 1st, sheep farmers could be presented with one of two scenarios – each as different from each other as night is to day.

Yet breeding and management decisions that could in some case be pivotal to the survival of a farm business need to be taken now. That is not possible when there are no guarantees.

The top priority of our governments must be to secure a long-term trade deal with the EU that provides Welsh agriculture with the best possible access to its nearest and richest neighbours.

That is what food and farming depend on the most.