Welsh lamb enters UAE

Competition is set to heat up between meat producers as the ban on Welsh lamb is lifted in the UAE

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By  Laura Barnes Published  October 26, 2006

Welsh lamb is set to make an appearance on menus across the UAE after Emirati authorities lifted the ban on the meat, Caterer Middle East can reveal. Estimated to be worth around US $937 million, the Welsh lamb export market has earmarked the UAE as a focus for future export plans. “It is difficult to put a figure on what the UAE market is worth, but it has the potential to be worth substantial amounts of money to individual farmers,” commented Carwyn Jones, minister for environment, planning and countryside, Welsh Assembly Government, speaking exclusively to Caterer. The lifting of the ban comes after months of discussions between the Welsh Assembly and the UAE authorities; with a delegation of Emirati ministers visiting Wales to ensure its regulations were met earlier this year. “The officials wanted to be sure that we were able to offer correct Halal slaughtering, as well as meeting the requirements to prove we are free of Foot and Mouth disease,” said Jones. “We had to work hard to convince them, and part of this involved visiting the Welsh Country Foods abattoir, and holding discussions with Hybu Cig Cymru, the Welsh meat promotion organisation, which is responsible for the development and marketing of red meat from Wales,” he added. With the first load of deliveries expected in the UAE at the beginning of this month, Jones said Welsh lamb did not want to compete with Australian and New Zealand lamb, due to the smaller scale of the Welsh market. However, it has already been in discussions with some hotels in the region. “There are a number of hotels in the pipeline, with Hilton Dubai Creek already expressing an interest. It is important for us to supply our product to the quality end of the market, as this is where we see our product,” added Jones. The grass-fed lamb is smaller than its New Zealand counterpart, and is also said to have a sweeter taste, however, the market also offers salt marsh lamb, a seasonal product that comes from animals grazing near the sea. “If the quality of Welsh lamb is as good as I remember, then we will definitely use it. Good quality meat has been scarce over the last couple of years due to restrictions, but as the restrictions are gradually being lifted, we are slowing starting to receive higher quality goods,” commented Jason Whitelock, executive chef, Hilton Dubai Creek. Other chefs in the UAE have also expressed an interest in Welsh lamb, and are expected to make a decision over using the product once a delegation from Wales visits Dubai early this month to promote the meat. “Welsh lamb is a very interesting and high quality product. The wet weather and the green grass found in the hills of Wales are a perfect combination for a constant supply of fresh food. As a chef, I am happy to cook with such a high quality product, and I am sure customers would be happy to taste it,” said Doxis Bekris, executive chef, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates.

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