New HCC board convenes during continued crisis

New additions to the Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) board met with their colleagues virtually this week for the first time.

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, was also in attendance for the first formal bi-monthly meeting since the new appointments.

However, the board has been holding interim weekly video conference meetings as part of its response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Retail trends and market price data were presented which showed that consumers are beginning to settle into more stable buying behaviours, but that the near-total loss of the foodservice industry was still having a major impact on the beef sector, and could also adversely affect the lamb trade over the coming weeks.

After the lockdown was introduced in March, a surge in consumer demand was seen, but mainly for cheaper cuts of meat and mince.

April’s figures show a steadier pattern; however, Easter lamb leg sales were down on previous years as families were not able to enjoy festive gatherings.

Deadweight prime cattle prices have followed a downward trend since the start of April, to sit around 20p below year-earlier levels, reflecting a loss of trade in steaks and roasting joints from hotels and restaurants.

Cull cow prices in England and Wales have also experienced a significant drop following the lockdown announcement and the closure of pubs, many fast food outlets and public sector catering establishments.

Three weeks ago, HCC launched an additional marketing campaign for both lamb and beef, working with leading chefs to encourage consumers to enjoy ‘restaurant-style’ food at home during lockdown.

This has now been reinforced by a GB-wide £1.2 million campaign specifically to support the beef sector, uniting the three levy boards, HCC, AHDB and QMS.

Kevin Roberts, HCC chairman, said: “The new board members have joined the organisation at a time of significant pressure across the red meat industry. The talent and expertise that they bring to the table will be invaluable in helping our organisation to support the whole supply chain.

“This is a very challenging period for the red meat sector. The lockdown has led to a major imbalance in demand for processors and price fluctuations for farmers as a result.

“It’s unlikely that the hotel and catering sector will return to normality quickly – either in Britain or among our major export partners – so we are likely to see uncertainty for many weeks to come.”