HUW Thomas has been announced as the winner of the Idris Davies Memorial Award for 2017 during a ceremony at Pembrokeshire County Show.

The award recognises outstanding contributions to agriculture.

Huw has a wide ranging knowledge of the food supply chain ranging from primary agriculture, processing and dealing with major retailers. He has worked in farming, research and government and is currently the Managing Director of the successful fresh produce business, Puffin Produce Ltd, based in Pembrokeshire.

Huw is a dairy farmer’s son from Narberth who returned to the county to run Puffin Produce in 2009, following 20 years in agriculture related roles throughout the UK.

This includes 10 years as a crop breeding research scientist at the Department of Genetics in the University of Cambridge which was followed by a spell in the Agri-Food strategy team of the Welsh Development Agency and Welsh Government. Prior to his current role, he spent three years as head of strategy and market information at DairyCo.

Puffin Produce has grown rapidly but sustainably since Huw joined the business. Annual turnover has grown from £9m to £28m and employee numbers from 50 to 160.

Puffin has now established long term supply relationships with Asda, Tesco, Aldi, Morrisons, Co-Operative, Ocado, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer’s – and has over the past few years developed the hugely successful ‘Blas y Tir’ brand which has retail sales of over £1m per month. The brand is now recognised and bought regularly by 35 per cent of Welsh shoppers.

Puffin Produce was instrumental in achieving PGI status for Pembrokeshire early potatoes in December 2013, raising sales by a factor of 12 over the subsequent seasons. To deal with the rapid growth of the Puffin business, Huw and his team have implemented a £15m capital expenditure programme that has built one of the most efficient potato factories in the UK.

Puffin Produce Ltd, which is a Pembrokeshire grower owned business, has built its success on developing robust and sustainable supply chains. Puffin’s long term relationship with its retailer partners allows them to translate these constructive partnerships into stable and profitable contracts for its growers.

This guaranteed year in and year out return for their crops allows the farming group that supplies Puffin to invest and grow their own farming businesses to meet Puffin’s increasing volume demands, which now stands at over 50,000 tonnes of potatoes and 400 acres of vegetables and daffodils.

Huw also sits on two ministerial appointment advisory boards, namely the Haven Waterway Enterprise Zone Board and the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board.

Huw and his wife Claire, have two daughters, aged seven and nine, and live in Narberth.

Mansel Raymond, chairman of the Idris Davies Memorial Award management committee, said: “Huw has made an outstanding contribution to the agricultural community in Pembrokeshire in many ways, over many years and continues to do so now at Puffin Produce. He joins some excellent company in becoming this year’s winner of the Idris Davies Memorial Award.”