By Debbie James

An award-winning west Wales cheese maker says a dwindling pool of migrant workers from the European Union poses one of the biggest threats to his future production.

Fourteen of Caws Cenarth’s 20 employees are from overseas, says Carwyn Adams, who took over the business from his parents in 2005.

“Our biggest threat is not being able to recruit sufficient staff after we leave the European Union because that labour pool is shrinking,’’ said Mr Adams, an exhibitor at the recent international food and drink event, BlasCymru/TasteWales, at Celtic Manor.

“As a growing business, it is already getting much harder to hire staff because of the uncertainties around the future for migrant workers in the UK after Brexit.’’

Labour is his biggest cost because of the investment needed to train staff to produce cheese recipes to Caws Cenarth’s exacting standards.

“Investing in people is paramount. As we operate on a small scale we don’t have automation so training is important to ensure consistency between batches.’’

Caws Cenarth was established by his parents, Gwynfor and Thelma, at the family farm at Cenarth in 1987.

One of the company’s new products is a cheese made from sheep’s milk, branded as Black Sheep.

Mr Adams said growth in demand for cheeses across the range is good, lifted by interest in specialty cheeses from Wales.

“When my parents set up the business it was an emerging market but now there are many different cheeses being produced in Wales and this has been fueled by demand from consumers.’’

The majority of Caws Cenarth’s consumers are based in the UK so, although Brexit might pose challenges for staff recruitment, it is unlikely to have an impact on sales.

“We are never going to make big inroads into European countries with our cheeses as they have their own long history of cheesemaking but there are opportunities for growth in our domestic market,’’ said Mr Adams.

He said events like BlasCymru/TasteWales were a useful platform for stimulating that growth.

“In previous years we have taken on new buyers as a result of exhibiting at Taste Wales. It can sometimes take weeks or months for buyers to get in touch because they need time to mull over what they have seen so if we don’t clinch a deal at the exhibition it might well be the case further down the line.’’