Welsh lamb buoyant

Demand for Welsh Lamb remains buoyant despite the recession, leading to increased sales overseas and improved prices for producers at home, claimed bosses this week.
“It’s been an encouraging year for farmers and prices have held up well,” said Rees Roberts, chairman of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales.

“Early figures indicate that exports are up by 11% in 2009. While this is in part due to the weakness of the pound, the positive feedback we are getting from customers across the world is that they recognise the unique qualities of the Welsh Lamb brand and are willing to pay for it. For example, major increases in demand for Welsh Lamb have been reported in Italy, Belgium and Germany.”

He added: “HCC’s aim is to continue marketing Welsh Lamb as a global brand, making it an attractive proposition for established markets in Europe, as well as the emerging markets of the Middle and Far East, so that as producers, we have another positive year in 2010.”

Roberts was speaking during a reception at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, organised by the Farmers’ Union of Wales, to celebrate Farmhouse Breakfast Week.

While figures show that sales of some cuts of lamb have declined in the UK during the recession, others such as stewing lamb has increased by more than 16%.

But Roberts pointed out that the drop in total volume sold can be linked to a decline in the breeding stock in Wales, rather than a fall in demand from consumers.

“The number of livestock kept on our farms continues to shrink. Latest figures show that there are fewer than four million breeding ewes in Wales, a reduction of 5% in a year and this follows a 7% cut in numbers between 2007 and 2008.”

The number of animals passing through abattoirs had declined by 7% between 2008 and 2009, while exports had soared by more than 11%.

“A greater demand from overseas, coupled with a reduction in the number of lambs on the market is bound to result in a reduction in sales at home,” said Roberts. “The decline in livestock numbers is something that everyone involved in the red meat industry must keep a close eye on. Numbers must not be allowed to decline to such a level where demand far outstrips supply and puts the food security of the country at risk.”