Huge Eurozone export reliance makes red meat tariff-free Brexit deal “critical” – HCC Chair

Post-Brexit free trade negotiations are critical to the future of the red meat industry in Wales because exports to the European Union currently account for more than 90 per cent of overseas trade and as much as a third of the Welsh flock, HCC’s Chairman Dai Davies will tell a Royal Welsh Winter Fair audience in a keynote speech.

“Exports are absolutely essential to this industry’s future sustainability. Profitability and, most importantly, prices depend on exports. In 2014, £225m worth of Welsh red meat exports went to our mature markets in the EU. That’s nine in every ten export sales.

“With exports accounting for around 35 per cent of all Welsh Lamb production, it means that nearly a third of the Welsh flock is sold to the EU nations,” Mr. Davies told industry attendees at the HCC breakfast meeting on Monday.

“HCC has overseen growth in exports from around £50m in 2003 to a record peak of £250m two years ago.

“New and emerging markets are hugely exciting, and have tremendous potential for the future, but many of them are a very long way behind the leading mature markets in the European Union.

“Clearly, we cannot afford to be excluded or restricted in our future export trade from these key markets. I am sure the whole of the red meat industry in Wales strongly supports the First Minister and our Cabinet Secretary in advocating a tariff-free Brexit within a fair trade agreement.

“It is not an easy or quick job to break into any new territory; there may be protocols, restrictions and diplomatic conventions, alongside the trade negotiations, that we have to deal with, no matter how world class our product is.”

Mr. Davies, who is standing down as HCC Chairman in April, said, that alongside protecting our Eurozone markets, all parts of the red meat supply chain must look forward and together develop the industry.

“We must utilise the well-established reputation of the Welsh Lamb brand as the premier global quality brand; it is iconic and emblematic – our “Champagne” brand – and I believe we can use its reputation not only to win over international customers but to drive other Welsh exports.

“Welsh Lamb’s status can raise our national profile and inspire and lead Wales’ trade and export initiatives. It can help to build a wider platform and broader reputation for the quality and excellence of Welsh workmanship and products,” said Mr. Davies.

“I cannot underestimate the importance of the consumer and it is vital as an industry we produce with the consumer, and the marketplace, in mind.

“Light lamb, for instance, has been dependent on the Mediterranean market for decades. We have seen those southern European markets wither during the financial squeeze of recent years, and production efficiencies have led both the domestic and overseas markets towards larger carcases.

“The marketplace is changing and while you have my assurance that HCC, and our agents, are working hard to conserve light lamb sales into the Mediterranean markets, producers must continue the process of reducing reliance on this specialist and dwindling market and work towards increasing carcase weights that can meet core domestic and international market needs.”

He said he planned to enjoy his last Winter Fair as Chairman of HCC. “Then, in my last months in office, I would dearly like to see righted the inexcusable injustice of Wales being deprived of Welsh farmers’ levy because of the geographical vagaries of the slaughtering system. It is a double hurt to see that money used to market products in direct competition with our own. It must come back… and I thank the Cabinet Secretary for her positive efforts to achieve this.

“Secretary – it would be great if it could happen on my watch,” said Mr. Davies.