Wales’s lamb and beef sector is anxiously awaiting developments to help it access crucial European markets, in the wake of border closures due to fears of the spread of the new strain of the Covid virus and the looming Brexit trade deadline.

Normally in December, around 3,000 tonnes of sheepmeat and 1,500 tonnes of beef would be exported from Wales, with over 90 per cent going to Europe in a trade worth around £15million in a single month.

However Channel and Irish Sea ports have been facing huge delays as other countries imposed movement restrictions to halt the potential spread of the new Covid variant from the UK.

Many farmers are keeping a close eye on information from livestock marts, with daily figures available on the Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) website showing lower throughput as farmers delay bringing lambs to market.

HCC chief executive Gwyn Howells said, “December is normally a major trading month, particularly for the sheep sector with a heavy Christmas and New Year export trade for both standard and light lambs.

"We were bracing ourselves for Brexit disruption on January 1, but the changing Covid situation has brought an immediate but hopefully temporary halt to most exports.

“Inevitably, this is a huge problem for Welsh processors who are unable to supply customers as expected. The numbers of livestock being brought to market by farmers has declined due to the uncertainty, and we’re monitoring the situation.

“The situation illustrates clearly why frictionless access to European markets is so important for the food and farming sector in Wales.”