Welsh farmers and food producers have breathed a huge sigh of relief after the Christmas Eve Brexit trade deal breakthrough.

FUW president Glyn Roberts welcomed the EU’s formal listing of the UK as a ‘third country’ – a move which is essential in terms of allowing Welsh food exports to the EU.

“However, our access to the EU market, which is the destination for three quarters of Welsh food and drink exports, will still face significant barriers after December 31, with non-tariff barrier costs expected to rise by 4 to 8 per cent.”

NFU Cymru president John Davies also welcomed the deal.

“Given the importance of the EU market to the Welsh farming sector, this deal is vital in maintaining trade with such a valuable export market.

“Whilst we welcome the deal that has been agreed, we will now need to take our time to analyse and fully digest what has been agreed and the implications it has for our sector and NFU Cymru’s members.”

But he pointed out that exports will be subject to procedures and controls which did not apply previously.

“These non-tariff barriers, as they are known, are a friction to trade and add to the cost of doing business. All efforts must be now be focussed on working together to find ways of minimising the impact of red-tape and non-tariff barriers on the movement of goods,” he added.

However continuing disruption at British ports because of the Covid situation raised fears for the new year lamb trade.

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.

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.

“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.”