[caption id="attachment_4830" align="aligncenter" width="300"] From left, Roger Williams, Zhou Xiaoming, Lord Livsey, Gareth Vaughan and Meat Promotion Wales - Hybu Cig Cymru chairman Rees Roberts[/caption]
Attempts to put Welsh red meat on the menu in China could take a leap forward at this year's Royal Welsh Show, according to the Farmers' Union of Wales.
Last January a guest speaker at the union's annual lunch in the House of Lords - held to celebrate the Home Grown Cereals Authority's Farmhouse Breakfast Week - was Zhou Xiaoming, Minister Counsellor in charge of trade and investment issues, including agriculture, between China and the UK.
And during the function he expressed his interest in attending the Royal Welsh Show. He will now tour the Llanelwedd showground on the opening day (July 19) and spend 45 minutes at the FUW Pavilion (from 2.15pm to 3 o'clock) meeting the president Gareth Vaughan and other members of the union's presidential team.
Mr Vaughan said today that at the lunch Mr Xiaoming revealed his country could offer market opportunities for Welsh beef and sheep producers. "He told us Wales had a lot to offer the people of China and that as their incomes increase, the Chinese consumer was looking more and more for imported meat products.
"In fact, in the first 11 months of 2009, China imported $7m-worth of pig products and $50m-worth of beef and I remember Mr Xiaoming saying that the door to China is now open to meat products from different countries and they are ready to help connect us with Chinese markets, not least with Welsh Black beef and mountain lamb."
The Minister Counsellor's invitation to the FUW's Lords function, hosted by former Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnor Lord Livsey of Talgarth, was initiated by Lord Livsey's successor as MP, Roger Williams, who led a delegation to the Chinese Embassy in London two years ago to promote Welsh Lamb.
Mr Williams began the bid to boost exports to China when he arranged for farmers from his constituency to supply 40kg of Welsh Lamb for a Chinese New Year reception at the Chinese Embassy in January 2008.
The idea was first discussed when Mr Williams' neighbour Glyn Jones, a farmer and director of Farmers Fresh which manages an abattoir and is directly involved in the export market, came up with the idea to promote Welsh Lamb.
Mr Vaughan added: "Welsh Lamb is the best lamb in the world and the Chinese market presents a massive opportunity for the Welsh agricultural sector. In the past decade alone, meat consumption in China has been rising at an average of 2kg per capita per year.
"If Chinese consumers choose to spend this money on Welsh Lamb then, apart from the high quality product they will receive, domestic meat producers will benefit."
Average meat consumption in China is now 54kg/person, compared to 70-130kg/person in Western countries. Forty years ago, it was just 4kg/person in China.