Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Assembly’s rural affairs minister, has announced the lifting of the United Arab Emirates’ ban on imports of Welsh lamb.

Mr Jones, who took part in two Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales) trade delegations to the UAE over the past year to promote Welsh lamb, described the country as a gateway to other oil-rich Gulf states.

“This is great news for the Welsh lamb industry and presents a massive opportunity for our suppliers,” Mr Jones told a Royal Welsh Show press conference.

“The UAE has minimal tariff barriers, no quota restrictions, a growing population and a rapidly expanding tourist sector, where lamb is the traditional meat of preference.”

But the country was only 25% self-sufficient in red meat, most of which was goat.

The dependence on imports offered potential supermarket and restaurant customers.

Gwyn Howells, HCC’s chief executive, said a “meet-the-buyer” event was planned for September in Dubai, when the UAE’s usual supplies of quality lamb from Australia and India started to dry up.

The market was not price driven, and customers wanted something different.

Buyers wanted the smaller and medium-sized lambs that Wales could provide.

Welsh lamb’s quality and PGI status would prove to be very saleable assets.

The lifting of the ban showed the benefit of spending some of HCC’s 6m annual budget on overseas trade visits and arranging for buyers to visit Wales to inspect production and processing standards.

bobdavies@agrinews.fsnet.co.uk