Mapping out a secure future for the Welsh beef industry
Close cooperation between all links in the supply chain, coupled with a fully coordinated partnership between the industry, HCC and the Welsh Government to develop and promote the beef herd in Wales, is the best way to secure a viable future for the industry.
That’s the main conclusion of a major study commissioned by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) into the state of the sector.
The independent report was commissioned by HCC earlier this year when a fall in market prices led to very low profitability.
The conclusions of the study, carried out on behalf of HCC by SAC Consulting, were published during a meeting in Cardiff today chaired by the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans AM.
The Deputy Minister said: “There is a great deal that we should be proud about in respect of the operation of the beef sector in Wales. In 2013, nearly £70 million worth of Welsh Beef was exported across the globe, and I am keen to work with HCC to develop further market interest from around the world to ensure this figure increases.
“Earlier this month I announced HCC had been successful in its application to the European Commission for a three year funding programme worth more than £3 million, part of which will be used to promote Welsh Beef in Germany and Italy.
“I also want to see Welsh Beef doing increasingly well in our domestic market. I will continue to work with partners in government, and with businesses across the supply chain, to encourage greater provision of Welsh Beef in our shops and on our tables.”
The report produced by SAC Consulting makes it clear that consumer demand must dictate production, not the other way round, and that HCC is in an ideal position to bring together all the various interested factions to coordinate a strategy that will benefit everyone.
“The Welsh beef industry needs a far better understanding of the consumer markets,” stated the report. “By appreciating the cuts of beef required, the industry can better organise how to produce and supply that beef.
“It is up to HCC and the Welsh Government, in consultation with all the other key stakeholders in the industry, to fit these various actions together to form a winning strategy that everybody in the Welsh beef industry can get behind.”
While the report states there are a number of options that the beef sector can adopt, ranging from allowing the free market to take its course to full regulation by the Government, the recommended approach is a mixture of the two.
Adopting this hybrid approach - with targeted intervention and plenty of collaboration between all sectors of the supply chain as well as the Government and HCC - is the best way to produce a Welsh beef industry that is market orientated, competitive and adds value to the Welsh economy and environment, according to the report.
“At the heart of the industry would be a productive national suckler herd,” states the report. “Producing beef cost effectively, with high eating quality and a great back story means that PGI Welsh Beef has more impact in markets beyond Wales.”
Taking this approach would also bring other benefits, with the key recommendations including:
- The herd would produce suckled calves, stores and breeding stock that farmers outside Wales could buy at a premium and with confidence.
- The dairy herd could make a greater contribution. Given the relatively small size of Welsh drystock farms, dairy beef is a far more efficient way of converting pasture dry matter into beef.
- Greater coordination and collaboration through many competing supply chains that drive better performance from all involved, with livestock auctioneers playing an important role in the movement of stock through these chains.
- A central information system for Wales that captures key performance indicators that can be used for a host of strategically important indicators.
- Delivering environmental benefits, through the Glastir scheme that better rewards suckler cows for their environmental contribution, together with a common approach to carbon footprinting that highlights the sustainability of Welsh production and gives consumers added confidence in Welsh Beef.
- Improving the genetic qualities and health of beef cattle will boost the profitability of individual businesses.
- Beef margins must be lifted to compete with sheep, dairying and dairy support enterprises. The carcase grading system needs to be reviewed so that it is fair and fit for purpose.
HCC Chief Executive Gwyn Howells said: “I welcome the conclusions of this independent report which provides the industry with a valuable guide to what actions are needed to support a long term and viable future for the beef sector in Wales.
“HCC is keen to play its part in helping to coordinate and shape the future direction of the Welsh beef sector, in partnership with the Welsh government and in full consultation and with the cooperation of farmers, auctioneers, processors and retailers.”Back to news listing