Welsh lamb to be sold in China

Welsh sheep farmers are gearing up for their meat to become the first lamb product from the UK to be exported to China, following the signing of a memorandum between the UK and China.

The memo - signed by David Cameron and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang two weeks ago - paves the way for UK beef and lamb to be sold to mainland China for the first time; the UK has exported meat to Hong Kong for some years.

Wales had invested heavily in building relationships with China and hosted a number of trade missions and meat plant inspections since 2010, said Gwyn Howells, CEO of meat promotions body HCC. It was therefore confident of being first in line once exports from the UK to China could commence, he said, adding this was expected to happen over the next year or two.

“I would expect us to be amongst the first - if not the first - when full access is granted,” Howells said. “There is growing demand for premium meat in China, and Welsh lamb is ideally placed to meet this.”

Overall exports of Welsh lamb and beef reached £224m in 2013, up from £217m in 2012, according to new figures from the HCC released this week. The 3.2% year-on-year increase had partly been driven by new export markets, including Scandinavia and Germany, said Howells.

“Germany is an interesting case: it is really starting to acquire a taste for lamb, which hasn’t been the case historically, aside from ethnic groups. Germany is becoming quite a desirable market for us.”

Welsh lamb and Welsh beef are protected with a PGI mark under the EU’s protected food scheme, which had helped communicate their quality credentials, he added. HCC estimates the retail value of Welsh lamb has increased by £14m over the past 10 years thanks to its PGI status.