Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so pleased to have the opportunity to help launch the London Welsh Lamb Club here at Clarence House and I hope you have enjoyed sampling some lamb from the Cambrian Mountains during lunchtime!
Bearing in mind the sheep’s unerring desire to commit suicide, it really is a miracle that anything arrives on anyone’s plate! I spend my life trying to extract sheep stuck in fences, or upside down, marooned on rock ledges or at the bottom of cliffs as the tide comes in, or the ones that very, very, very slowly cross the road in front of your car or held fast in a bramble bush – in fact I daresay my eldest son is probably rescuing one as we speak – along with several damsels in distress…
People in Wales have always appreciated the quality of Welsh lamb because, apart from its quality and taste, they know it is raised naturally on the right sorts of fields and the rights sorts of grass and upland pastures.
But now that well-earned reputation for quality is recognized far beyond the borders of Wales which, I think, is particularly encouraging.
Part of that success, I believe, is down to the green credentials of the Welsh farming community.
Only last month, my Cambrian Mountains Initiative produced a report which showed that three of 20 farms they surveyed were classed as ‘carbon negative’ – meaning they absorbed more carbon than they produced.
The report also found that, overall, the farms surveyed absorbed 58 per cent of their emissions.
Growing awareness of environmental issues, coupled with high animal welfare standards in Wales and the succulent taste of Welsh Lamb have all combined so that it can be truly described as a world class brand.
Exports in 2010 were valued at £109 million – up from £91 million just a year before - and Welsh lamb can now be found on sale in shops and on restaurant menus throughout Europe as well as places as far afield as Hong Kong, Dubai and Barbados .
I am glad to say I have at Highgrove the most genuinely Welsh sounding sheep at Highgrove – Lleyn!
There was a breakthrough two years ago when independent research carried out by Hybu Cig Cymru revealed that Welsh lamb had become the most recognized lamb brand in London and the South of England for the first time, overtaking lamb brands from all other countries. This is significant because this region of the U.K. is a key market place for Welsh lamb.
This increased recognition is reflected in the demands from restaurant diners to choose Welsh lamb on the menu. The popularity of the product is clear to see by the response from restaurateurs to the launch of this new club.
At present I am told there are 50 members of the club in London, with a number awaiting accreditation under the scheme.
The long term aim of H.C.C. is to set up similar lamb clubs in cities and regions across the country, enabling diners to enjoy Welsh Lamb wherever they live in this country.
While, on the face of it, this initiative may only be of benefit to restaurants and their clientele, the truth is that everyone in this room and every sheep farmer back in Wales stands to benefit.
Greater demand from consumers, whether it is in restaurants or shops, means that the price received by farmers for their livestock at market will improve.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this all helps at the end of the day - and what I mind most about - to keep the traditional family farm in Wales in business not only today, but we hope for a very long and sustainable future. Thank you so much for your contribution to this club.