As he steps down from his role as chairman of Hybu Cig Cyrmu, Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), Dai Davies spoke to Alex Black about what the future holds for Welsh agriculture
Meeting changing consumer needs and maintaining access to the single market are key for the future of the Welsh red meat industry, according to retiring HCC chairman Dai Davies.
Mr Davies said he had seen a huge change in consumer habits since he became chairman six and a half years ago and the industry would need to adapt to stay relevant.
“When I started, we were talking about consumers spending an hour to prepare a meal. Now we are talking about 10 minutes,” he said.
“People have moved away from the Sunday roast which would last half of the rest of the week. Now they only want a meal to last once and have something different the next day.”
But he said grass-roots farmers had already started to adapt and understand what was required by the market to meet consumer needs.
However, the declining consumption of lamb in the UK was a concern going forward.
“The profile of who is eating it worries me,” said Mr Davies.
“We need to make sure we have the product the younger generation requires.”
He added the industry needed to change the consumer perception of the taste of lamb and develop the UK market as well as expanding markets abroad to help balance seasonal production.
“They remember tasting mutton and older lamb,” he said.
“Today, lamb is a premium product. Once they experience it, they will want it.”
One of the biggest challenges Mr Davies faced during his time at HCC was the 2013 horsemeat scandal.
A fall in consumption ensued as the non-meat lobby ‘latched onto it’.
“From our point of view, we highlighted traceability and encouraged people to buy Welsh and British.
“But people have short memories. It is happening now again with what is going on in Brazil.”
Mr Davies has decided to step down at the end of March to allow HCC to appoint a chairman who will be able to see the organisation through the whole Brexit process as leaving the EU was the ‘biggest problem we have’.
“My dream is to retain single market access and the relationships we have developed with Europe,” he said.
“We have worked hard, the last thing I want is losing this market overnight.”
He said he had also learned how political decisions could affect trade, despite the time, effort and money put into developing the market from talks with Russia when the market ‘changed overnight’.
However, he had ‘huge concerns’ over agricultural products in post-Brexit trade deals.
“It is fine to say people will be willing to trade. For Australia and New Zealand, this is the market they really want.”
Looking ahead, Mr Davies said in 10 years’ time the industry would be looking back and saying ‘we had got there despite the current issues’.
“It does concern me when the Secretary of State says everything is hunky dory.
“We will get there but we are going to need help.
“If you have quality, there will always be a market.”