Welsh red meat industry prepares for volatile year

The Welsh red meat sector has been told it must show the “greatest resilience, agility and adaptability” in what is predicted to be a volatile 12 months. 

Dai Davies, chairman of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), said that 2016 had seen the most dramatic political change in his career, one that will have a knock-on effect on the red meat industry and the Welsh way of life for years to come.

In his final New Year message before he retires from his position in April, Davies reiterated his call for a “free and unfettered” trade deal to be negotiated with Europe as part of Brexit negotiations, securing the future of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status of Welsh Lamb and Beef.

“I make no apologies for continuing to emphasise just how important European trade is to our industry or repeating the crucial message that Welsh Lamb, in particular, is very highly dependent on European exports,” said Davies.

“Around a third of Welsh lamb flock is consumed ‘tariff free’ inside the EU. It’s vital that any post-Brexit deal protects our access to these countries and doesn’t allow for more cheap imports to the UK market.”

In the face of new opportunities and challenges, Davies has called on the sector to come together. “This great industry will need to dig deep and forge a stronger unity that can bang the drum for its communities, culture and climate change counteraction,” he said.

He also took the chance to praise the work that HCC has done over the past 12 months. He said: “With very limited resources, certainly when compared to those of nearby competitors in England, HCC has regularly punched above its weight on a domestic and worldwide platform and I hope it continues to have the fullest backing from the industry and its partners in government to maintain the tremendous progress we have seen.”

It was also highlighted that it has been a year since the levy boards of Wales, England and Scotland reached an agreement on a fairer distribution of funds, and demanded that 2017 be the year when these proposals were put into action.

“Because of the way the industry is structured, about £1 million a year is unfairly lost to Wales,” he explained. This is money that we and our stakeholders could use here in Wales to invest in and develop the industry in the post-Brexit climate, help farmers to produce cost-effectively and promote our premium home-grown lamb, beef and pork products with the specialist talents that we have developed here at HCC and in Wales in recent years.

“If there’s one thing I would like to see achieved before I step down after six years as chairman, it’s a levy system that is fair to Wales and the unqualified handling over of the lost £1m-plus per year for us to spend strategically and cost-effectively here, within Wales.”

Concluding, the retiring chairman highlighted the successes that the industry has experienced in 2016 in developing new markets and new products, and in working to a more efficient red meat sector which would benefit processors, farmers and the environment.

“We’re making very good progress in a number of areas,” Davies said. “Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen increased commitment to home-produced meat in the multiple retail sector at home, as well as important growth in emerging markets such as Denmark, Canada and Hong Kong.

“HCC is also playing a leading role in the continuing improvement we’re seeing in farmers producing meat to the processors’ specifications, and in producing more efficiently – which has benefits both in terms of business profitability and helping to meet our responsibilities in terms of climate change.”

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