The value of the iconic beef, lamb and pork sectors to the Welsh economy rose in 2020, as consumers turned to local, sustainable, quality food during the Covid pandemic, according to analysis by Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) (Meat Promotion Wales).

New figures from the Welsh Government's Aggregate Agricultural Output and Income report show that the total value of agricultural output in Wales for 2020 is projected to stand at £1.7bn – a 6.2 per cent (or £99m) increase on the provisional figure for 2019.

Cattle and sheep account for 44 per cent of this total at £750m; the highest proportion recorded since 2016. The agricultural output value for Wales’s pig sector also increased (by 34.3 per cent or £2m) to a value of £8 million.

The figures reflect the strength of the livestock sector in Wales, and sit in contrast to Total Income From Farming (TIFF) figures for the UK as a whole newly released by Defra.

Although the TIFF figures are a different form of measuring farm production, the UK data concurs that the livestock sector has had a strong year, but in other parts of Britain this was more than offset by poor harvests in the arable sector.

Demand for beef and lamb have been strong in the domestic retail market since the immediate aftermath of the first Covid lockdown in spring 2020. After initial market volatility, marketing campaigns by HCC and other bodies encouraged consumers to recreate restaurant meals at home.

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Over the past year, domestic retail sales of lamb and beef have trended consistently higher, with spending of lamb 20 per cent higher than the previous year. Sales at independent high street butchers are also strong.

Research shows many demographic groups, including families with children, buying more beef and lamb than previously, and turning to quality home-grown produce.

HCC data analyst Glesni Phillips said: “The strong demand for red meat from the domestic consumer has helped drive market prices for beef and lamb at Welsh livestock markets in the second half of 2020 and into the early months of 2021.

“It’s no surprise, therefore, to see that the overall value of the industry is projected to have grown. We have seen inflation in the costs on farmers, which offset some of the gains from improved market prices, however it’s heartening to see consumers’ support for quality Welsh produce.

“Welsh lamb and Welsh beef remain key drivers of our rural economy, and given their excellent brand reputation, they act as flagship products for the growing Welsh food and drink sector.”

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