Lamb and Beef Sector Vital to Government Food Drive says Deputy Minister

The red meat sector has a vital role to play in Welsh Government’s drive to grow the food and drink industry by a further 30 per cent in five years, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans, told Hybu Cig Cymru-Meat Promotion Wales’ annual conference in Llandrindod Wells last Thursday.

“The food and drink industry is estimated to be worth £5.2 billion to the Welsh economy every year and we need to continue to build on this,” she told industry delegates. “By 2020, I want to see the food and drink industry grow by a further 30 per cent and the red meat sector has a vital place to play in this aspiration.”

The Deputy Minister applauded HCC for the latest PGI Welsh Lamb marketing campaign, “which was not only bigger than ever but also brought forward earlier in the year in response to poor market conditions. I was pleased to join HCC recently on their promotional campaign. HCC’s work in this regard should be fully welcomed by the industry.”

Promotional activity needs money, though, she said. “It would be odd if I did not mention the long overdue reform of the Red Meat levy. The current arrangements are not fair and disadvantage Wales. I am pleased that talks are progressing amongst the levy bodies. I look forward to seeing the final proposals soon.”

She called for the support of retailers and processors. “I welcome the recent announcements by some of our major supermarket chains that they will extend their UK lamb sourcing policy for 2016. Although this is a positive step, more could still be done. I want to ensure that the Welsh consumer can choose Welsh produce all year round. It is up to the supermarkets to ensure that this happens.”

HCC is the industry’s “knowledge house” and the Deputy Minister said she was pleased it had been invited by the European Commission to help review the sheep meat sector in Europe. “Having representation from Wales, probably the most highly regarded sheep producing nation in the EU, will make sure that our industry is well represented and any changes in policy at a European level will take the needs of our farmers into consideration.”

The Deputy Minister said “Engage”, the theme of the conference, was “very much at the heart of my vision and aspiration for the agriculture industry in Wales. A positive and proactive approach, partnership between and with the Welsh Government, Hybu Cig Cymru and the red meat sector, is the way to make a real impact. I would like to offer my thanks to HCC for their continued drive to promote and develop our red meat industry.”

The Deputy Minister said that, together, much had been done. “We have worked to create a long term vision for Welsh agriculture, our Strategic Framework for Welsh Agriculture; we launched a new five year Strategic Red Meat Action Plan; we’ve had success at trade fairs and in export markets and have seen the very successful initiative Removing the Barriers to Electronic Reporting of Sheep Flocks  benefit over 1,700 sheep producers.”

The Deputy Minister said she was commissioning an independent review of HCC to commence in the New Year, saying “This is about good governance, it is not criticism of HCC.” HCC Chairman Dai Davies welcomed the review, saying “HCC has been in existence for 12 years and in the interests of good governance, transparency and value for money, we look forward to working with Government on the review.”