By Kate Madley

The Welsh red meat industry has been given a further boost, receiving investment from the Welsh Government.

The decision to invest an additional £1.2m in the sector over the next three years was announced by the Minister for Natural Resources Wales, Alun Davies AM, at the inaugural farming and businesses conference in Llandrindod Wells last week.

The investment will support the development of Welsh red meat exports, which has been welcomed by Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) – Meat Promotion Wales.

“This is excellent news for Wales,” said Gwyn Howells, chief executive of HCC. “HCC will use this additional money to further strengthen existing overseas markets for Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef and develop new opportunities for our exporters.”

“HCC has a successful track record of identifying and opening up new international markets, in conjunction with our exporting companies and the Welsh Government. Wales was the first country in the UK to export lamb to the Middle East, Hong Kong, Scandinavia and Canada.”

The total value of Welsh red meat supply chain to the Welsh economy – including farmers, processors and retailers – is £1bn a year, with exports of Welsh Lamb and Beef valued at £217m in 2012.

Mr Howells continued: “HCC is in negotiations to open up new markets for Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef products in China, Russia and the United States and I am confident that this additional funding will help us achieve our ambitions.

“Approximately a third of all Welsh Lamb is exported overseas, emphasising the importance of this market for the red meat sector.”

First Minister, Carwyn Jones, discussed the importance of the agriculture sector in Wales, ahead of the first annual farming conference. “Agriculture is worth £150 million to the Welsh economy, with almost 15,000 people employed directly in farming and many more owing their living indirectly to providing goods and services to farms,” he said.

“There is no doubt that farming and food production represents a key strategic industry for Wales. This event is all about seizing the opportunity to grow the industry in Wales and ensuring that the Welsh Government is in pole position to work with the industry and provide the right environment for farm businesses to flourish.”