4 December 1998

Welsh outlet supports its lamb industry

A COMMUNITY owned retail outlet in Powys is paying farmers a premium for mountain reared lambs that were once sold to southern Europe.

When the strength of sterling and the knock-on effect of the BSE crisis hit exports – sending the price of lightweight hill lambs plunging to 40p/kg – the committee running the shop, post office and garage at Llanbadarn Fynydd decided to help local farmers.

Now they are taking 10 lambs a week, getting them slaughtered, jointed and vacuum packed on contract, and retailing the meat for prices that undercut local supermarkets by at least one-third. This still leaves a profit even after paying producers a 20p/kg premium over the weekly SQQ average.

The product is marketed as Sweet Ithon Lamb and carries a distinctive label designed by pupils at the local school.

"The amount we are selling is a drop in the ocean, but if we can get a reasonable margin after paying more to the farmer, big retailers who have the benefits of scale should be able to do the same," says committee chairman, Tom Davis. He runs 950 ewes with his wife Clare in Llaithddu, one of three parishes served by the shop.

"The shop has only one full time employee, who is helped out by volunteers. This means overheads are low and, except for loss leaders like milk and bread, we can compete with supermarkets on most groceries," said Mr Davis.

The self-help achievements of the community were recognised with the award of Powys Village of the Year in 1997.

Now it has been shortlisted in a national competition.