by John Richards, HCC industry development manager
the latest lamb export and domestic consumption information has highlighted the importance of having varied marketing strategies to achieve the highest possible returns for farmers and producers in Wales.
since the beginning of the year export values and volumes have increased significantly as the weakened sterling has enhanced UK and Welsh competitiveness on the continent. this upsurge in sales has provided a welcome boost to the market as UK consumption has faltered somewhat.
the latest statistics from hM Revenue and Customs show that the volume of lamb exported from the UK for the first seven months of the year increased by 15 per cent to 46,400 tonnes. there were increased shipments to all the main export destinations, demonstrating that Welsh Lamb holds its popularity across a wide portfolio of markets. France remained the largest importer of lamb from the UK, receiving 45 per cent of all exported product.
Welsh Lamb has also prospered beyond the French borders with the Netherlands increasing imports by an impressive 33 per cent. similarly, Germany increased their import volume by 26 per cent whilst Belgium increased theirs by 19 per cent. All of these markets have been seen as key export development destinations by hCC for a number of years and it’s satisfying to see the fruits of this labour.
Along with our overseas representatives, we have worked with these key markets to establish PGI Welsh Lamb as a trusted and high quality brand. While this may be a long-term process, by doing this we aim to ensure that the consumer recognises the excellence of the product which should secure a premium for all links of the supply chain in Wales. Overall, the value of lamb exports from the UK, of which Welsh Lamb is a major contributor, has increased by 24 per cent to nearly £206 million over the last seven months, proving Welsh Lamb’s importance to the Welsh and UK economies.
Imports to the UK, which are mainly from New Zealand, fell by 15 per cent when compared with last year’s numbers during the January to July period, which will be welcome news to sheep farmers across Wales. It is not all good news however as this fall in volume combined with strong export activity and an increase in the average retail price has meant that GB consumption data for the year to mid-August shows that sales of fresh lamb had fallen by over 10 per cent.
this highlights how even though consumers in Wales and UK value and support Welsh agriculture, a fact experienced by FUW presidential policy team member Ian Rickman and Glamorganshire chairman Richard Walker when they joined us on our supermarket trailer tour in Cardiff during september, there is a price sensitivity in the market emphasising the need for producers to minimise production costs wherever possible.