Dai Davies at the Royal Welsh Show 2015Dai Davies ©Richard Stanton

New Zealand lamb imports are putting the future of the Welsh sheep industry at risk, industry leaders have warned.

On the first day of the Royal Welsh Show (20 July), Dai Davies, chairman of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) – launched a scathing attack on supermarkets for continuing to source foreign, especially NZ lamb, at the expense of Welsh produce.

“We are increasingly finding imported lamb encroaching on our season, with product still on the shelves in July and into the next month,” Mr Davies told a HCC breakfast meeting. 

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“Put frankly, they are taking liberties, undermining the competitiveness of our supply chain and putting the future of our sheep industry at risk.”

Mr Davies said he regretted that some multiple retailers had not shared the HCC’s vision and had been “complicit in maintaining the supply of imported as opposed to home-grown lamb”. 

“I urge them to reconsider their sourcing policies and decide whether they really want to sacrifice the long-term future of the UK’s supply chain for a short-term gain.”

While the beef situation had improved, the lamb price had worsened “hitting worryingly low levels”.

Sheep farmers are now receiving £25-£30 a head less for their sheep than during the same period last year.

Mr Davies said prices were now so low that some sheep farmers “wonder whether there is a realistic future for them”.

The main reason for the sharp fall in returns, he added, was the strong pound, which had “sucked in more red meat imports”.

Specifically, Mr Davies accused Tesco of giving too much support to New Zealand lamb.

He also accused Asda of a making a “cynical PR announcement” ahead of the Royal Welsh Show because it announced a commitment to source the majority of its lamb from the UK – only after the traditional Welsh lamb season.

HCC has launched a Welsh Lamb 2015 campaign to promote Welsh lamb to consumers.

It includes a new TV advert, large posters places at 150 locations near supermarkets and high streets across the UK and on-pack promotion featuring a major prize.

Speaking at the meeting, EU farm commissioner Phil Hogan gave an immediate pledge to assist the Welsh government and stakeholders and put more money in the promotion of Welsh lamb in different markets “right across the Far East, right across the world”.

Mr Hogan said he intended to set up a “reflection group” in September to implement new ways to promote lamb, particularly from countries such as Wales, across EU member state countries.