17 August 2001

United push to put Welsh lamb on nations plates

Welsh lamb received lots of

backing at the Carmarthenshire

Festival of Agriculture, as

Bob Davies discovered

PROMOTIONAL agencies and commercial firms have joined forces to push Welsh lamb sales.

The Wales Assembly has allocated £600,000 to promote the full range of lamb weights on domestic markets. Half was pledged some weeks ago to a multi-media campaign to persuade local authorities, prisons, hospitals and the MoD to buy lightweight carcasses that would normally be exported to southern Europe.

At the Carmarthenshire Festival of Agriculture, Wynfford James, chief executive of the Welsh Development Agencys food directorate, announced an extra injection of £300,000 to market lambs weighing between 10kg and 15kg. He said that without extra money it would be impossible to find all the new outlets that were urgently needed.

At the same meeting Oriel Jones, whose Dyfed abattoir is a dedicated supplier to Sainsbury, said the firm was immediately increasing the volume of Welsh Mountain lamb in 80 of its stores.

The commitment was welcome at a critical time for Welsh producers, and the retailer was confident that innovative promotion could stimulate buoyant demand.

Don Thomas, chief executive of Welsh Lamb and Beef Promotions, said Safeway Stores and Iceland Food Group were working with the co-op to support Welsh farming through to increasing sales of branded, farm-assured lamb products.

He urged more producers to join the 7000 farmers who paid the annual subscription of £60 a year for joint membership of WLBP and Farm Assured Welsh Livestock.

Hugh Richards, president of NFU Cymru-Wales, welcomed all initiatives that might help relieve the desperate situation faced by producers, though he was wary of the underlying motives of commercial companies offering support.

He said: "It is inevitable that sheep farmers are going to have a dreadful time, and many will have to accept the insulting £10 a lamb offered by the Welfare Scheme. A change in the regulations also means that only 30% of lambs can go from each farm, and nobody has any idea where a home can be found for the rest."