A £4.5m action plan has been launched to secure the future of the Welsh red meat industry.

The document was drafted by Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales) in consultation with sector stakeholders and the Welsh Assembly Government.

It claims that the industry is worth more than £360m a year to the Welsh economy, with abattoirs annually turning out more than 75,000t of clean sheep meat, 44,000t of beef and 2000t of pig meat.

The authors insist that action is necessary to meet challenges faced by primary producers, livestock markets, abattoirs and processors.

However, the plan suggests that the favourable image of the Welsh brand, the wet climate, the quality of grassland and the family farming tradition found in Wales present significant opportunities.

“The Protected Geographical Indication status of Welsh lamb and beef also provides the industry with the opportunity to develop differential products,” it says.

But to take advantage of the positive factors the industry must respond to political and environmental change, adapt to evolving market conditions, embrace innovation, adopt technical best practice and improve overall business management.

“Currently many Welsh producers are struggling to come to terms with the full implications for their businesses of the changes in European subsidies, increasing regulation and market and environmental issues,” the plan claims.

Auctions and large abattoirs are concerned about maintaining throughputs, while processing plants in particular face the financial burden of complying with regulations and the competitive nature of large supermarkets.

The main aims of the new strategy include improving the industry’s level of understanding of market trends, influencing consumer behaviour, fostering innovation and enhancing supply chain linkages.

It also seeks to improve the technical and business performance of primary producers in response to changing market conditions, environmental requirements, climate change and consumer demands.

“The important role played by red meat in the Welsh economy is not always appreciated,” said HCC chairman Rees Roberts. “Production is 43% of total annual Welsh agricultural output and it has the potential to grow considerably in future, particularly in overseas markets.

“At the core profitability remains the biggest challenge, and there is a need to improve overall confidence in the industry and encourage future investment.”

He described the action plan as a positive document setting out HCC’s vision of a bright future if all section of the Welsh red meat industry responded to the challenges.

The full plan is available and open for consultation until 20 February.