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Minister leads trade mission.

WELSH Lamb could grab a PS20m slice of the American food market if import barriers are lifted, experts believe.

Next week natural resources minister Alun Davies will lead a trade mission to Washington aiming to open up the US market to premium Welsh Lamb.

Hybu Cig Cymru, the red meat marketing body, is stressing that Welsh Lamb is not being positioned as a potential rival to domestic US lamb.

the US market to premium Welsh Lamb.

Hybu Cig Cymru, the red meat marketing body, is stressing that Welsh Lamb is not being positioned as a potential "Our aim is not to compete with American farmers," said HCC market development manager Laura Dodds.

"We aim to compliment their efforts and to help boost demand among the American public for premium quality lamb.

"If we can gain a 5% share of lamb imports - primarily met by New Zealand and Australia - that would be worth PS20m-ayear to Wales."

A 5% share of the US market for lamb imports would equate to 3,100 tonnes-a-year.

Next week's trade mission comes on the heels of a decision last November by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to lift a 16-year embargo on European beef.

The US market was closed to EU beef, sheep and goat products at the height of the BSE crisis in 1997.

Recent talks with the USDA have fueled hopes that EU lamb imports will be permitted within months.

HCC believes there is a clear demand in the US for high-end lamb as affluent consumers look for alternatives to proteins such as chicken or fish.

US farmers are struggling to meet this demand with sheep numbers in long-term decline - the current national flock stands at 5.34m head of sheep, down from a high of 56m in 1945. Wales alone has almost 9m sheep.

In Washington, the Welsh delegation will meet USDA officials before discussing trade opportunities with Sir Peter Westmacott, British Ambassador to the US.

A meeting is also scheduled with Congressman Morgan Griffiths, chairman of the Friends of Wales Caucus.

While in North America the delegation will also visit Toronto to see the progress made by Welsh Lamb in the Canadian market.

Alun Davies said the trade mission was an "excellent opportunity" to promote Welsh Lamb.

He said: "We are constantly looking to break into new markets."
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Jan 9, 2014
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