WELSH lamb exports to Saudi Arabia are set to begin in the next few months, in a major boost to the nation’s sheep industry.

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has been working with Welsh processors and colleagues in governments through the UK Export Certification Partnership (UKECP) to remove Saudi restrictions on the import of British sheepmeat to the country.

Last week, confirmation was received that the ban would be lifted, subject to the finalising of export certificates.

Saudi Arabia has long been identified as a priority future market for high-quality PGI Welsh Lamb.

A nation of 33 million consumers with one of the highest average incomes in the region, Saudi Arabia imports around 40 per cent of its meat.

Lamb is the most popular meat among Saudi consumers, particularly around religious festivals.

The industry in Wales is in an advanced stage of readiness to take advantage of the news.

Last year, HCC and processors took part in a Welsh Government trade mission to Saudi Arabia and met with a number of importers and retailers.

HCC has also been pro-actively ensuring that interested processors have the necessary certification to export to the gulf Kingdom.

The news arrived in the middle of Dubai’s Gulfood trade fair, the largest food fair in the Middle East.

Food industry executives from Saudi Arabia and across the region were in attendance, and HCC was present promoting PGI Welsh Lamb.

HCC’s market development executive Rhys Llywelyn said: “This is excellent and long-awaited news.

"Gaining permission to export Welsh lamb to Saudi Arabia has been no easy matter and is the culmination of many years of work.”

“This market offers a huge opportunity for us,” added Rhys.

“It will take work to establish the PGI Welsh Lamb brand in the market, but it is already well-known in the UAE.

"From our recent work with the processors in terms of certification and with the Welsh Government trade mission, we feel as though we’re as ready as we can be to take advantage.

“With Brexit on the horizon, exploring markets beyond the EU is more important than ever.

“We look forward to working with Welsh farmers and processors to make the most of this opportunity.”