The Wye & Towy Valley Welsh Black Beef Marketing Group, which represents six Welsh farms, has been established as a key regular supplier of top quality Welsh black beef to Dovecote Park, the dedicated suppliers of beef to Waitrose, To cope with the increase in demand this season the group saw a 100% increase in requirements of cattle.
Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Alun Davies, said:
"Good quality, distinctive food is an emblematic part of our Welsh culture. Consumer confidence in our excellent produce is currently riding high, which is a massive achievement, especially in the light of the challenges our producers have faced in recent years. I am delighted to see that the group have seen an increase in orders and that there is considerable demand for this fantastic product.
"I am extremely proud to see Farming Connect support Welsh farmers; helping them to take business ideas forward which is vital to ensure Welsh farms prosper."
The group members acknowledge that Farming Connect’s Agrisgôp service– a fully funded management development programme which encourages eligible farmers to get together to take forward business ideas - was a vital component in their success story.
The catalyst which prompted the farmers to join forces and seek support to set up a new Farming Connect Agrisgôp in Llandovery, was an awareness that Waitrose was keen to source Welsh Black cattle for branches in Wales.
Group member Arwyn Lewis who farms at Cwmgwyn near Llandovery, says that the support received through working together as part of an Agrisgôp group was vital in the early stages when enthusiasm was high but confidence about how best to work together as a single supplier in order to win the Waitrose contract was low.
Mr Lewis said:
"The development of the group could have taken us much longer, but thanks to support from our local Agrisgôp group leader, we achieved delivery of the product through to retail in record time."
The group soon realised that by working collaboratively, they were able to share best practice and use their collective expertise to finish large quantities of cattle to the high quality specification expected by Waitrose, and on a diet that is virtually all produced on their farms.
All cattle supplied to Waitrose through the scheme are fully traceable from birth to slaughter and are properly matured and finished under 30 months. The group’s initial arrangement to supply Waitrose with Welsh Blacks has grown substantially since the scheme started.
Rob Bunn, Livestock Schemes Manager for Dovecote Park is clearly a satisfied customer and delighted that the group are able to respond to demand and up their order to meet Waitrose Christmas shoppers’ needs.
"This group of farmers supply quality cattle consistently every fortnight, with excellent communication between all parties maintained at all times. This is a superb example of farmer collaboration at every level and has ensured that the scheme goes from strength to strength."
Group chairman Rob Powell of Builth Wells said:
"We are all actively committed to improving land management. A number of us are already in Glastir, the Welsh Government’s new sustainable land management scheme, or planning to apply. As a group we need a range of sustainable farming systems that offer year-round continuous supply, an important consideration for Waitrose."