The future of the venison industry in Wales could be an exciting one.

That was the message at the annual conference of the British Deer Farmers' Association, held in Brecon last weekend (November 3 - 5).

With sponsorship from the WDA Food Directorate, the conference involved key industry players from across the UK.

One of the conference organisers was David Morgan, who runs the Welsh Venison Centre, near Brecon, where he farms up to 700 deer.

He feels major opportunities in the industry are being missed by farmers.

"There is huge potential in the deer farming industry, but farmers' are scared to get involved because there is no EU support for the industry; also because of the size of the industry, there is no proper infrastructure in place," he said.

"It is a completely market-led industry - but there is a huge untapped market out there; I market my produce directly to the hotel and catering trade, an ever-growing sector.

"Venison is an incredibly healthy meat - extremely low in saturated fats and high in protein and iron - and a quick and easy meat to cook. We need to go out there and tell people about it. Venison sales currently account for less than 0.5% of red meat sales in the UK - that market is set for expansion."

The deer industry is a very young industry - only 25 years old world-wide. Today there are around eight deer farmers in Wales; when the industry peaked about 10 years ago, there were almost 30 deer farmers.

WDA agri-food director Wynfford James was one of the speakers at the conference.

He said: "I was very impressed with what I saw and heard at the event. Members of the BDFA are a very forward-thinking and market-focussed group of people. I am sure that given the right sort of support, these people can develop the industry dramatically.

"Wales is ideally placed to develop its venison production. We are a grass-growing nation and deer are one of the best converters of grass to meat."

"We need to look at the market however, and I have challenged the Welsh members of the BDFA to come up with a robust marketing strategy. With this in place the Welsh venison industry could access the programmes of the WDA Food Directorate to best advantage in order to develop the industry."

More details: Menna Davies, 01686 613175.