STRENGTHENING export opportunities for the British beef and lamb sector is key to driving the industry forward and sending a clear message to the world that the UK is open for business, experts told the Anuga Food Fair in Cologne.
Eblex’s head of trade development, Peter Hardwick, whose team helps producers who want to export and look at the best routes to new overseas markets, said there were massive opportunities for British meat producers, especially in China.
Speaking to FG he said: “It is important to develop export markets because it gives a better return for farmers.
“China imports 1.3 million tonnes of meat each year so there is a fantastic opportunity there.
“There is a relative shortage of beef globally and we have seen even the price of mince go up recently.
“There is an awful lot of pressure on the meat market at the moment. There is such a high demand for protein that is outstripping supply, giving UK producers good export opportunities.”
Mr Hardwick said the market had recovered well after being badly hit but the BSE crisis, but the disease was still a big concern for the Chinese.
“We exported 214,000 tonnes of beef before the outbreak and we are now exporting 135,000 tonnes,” he said.
“The Chinese are concerned about BSE so it is vital that we are completely open and transparent with them on what we are doing to control the disease. Our surveillance in this country is second to none.
“But they want to make sure their consumers are protected, and confidence cannot be built over night.”
He also said the industry could improve on its environmental targets while at the same time financially benefiting from selling whole carcases.
He added: “Every part of the beast has got a market and we export all parts. Producers can capitalise on these fifth quarter meats, such as offals and hides and it also improves our environmental performance because fewer products are being incinerated.”
Mr Hardwick said the UK’s high animal welfare standards, especially its commitment to the UK Export Certificate partnership were also giving producers an advantage over their export rivals.