July 10, 2008

Extra Funding Boosts Boom in Meat Export

A n EXTRA pounds380,000 of levy funding from the English Beef & Lamb Executive (Eblex) is being invested in export activity this year to capitalise on the growing demand for English beef and lamb overseas.

Exports to EU countries were up 17 per cent for beef and nearly 8 per cent for lamb during the first four months of this year, helped by the strength of the euro against sterling making prices competitive. Lamb exports to France - our largest market - in the first quarter were up by 3 per cent on the same period in 2007.

The additional cash, which is coming from reserves, was agreed by the Eblex Board to provide the export team with more flexibility to build on the current programme of activity. It is aimed at helping the industry to be in the best possible position to capitalise on the export opportunities available.

The decision takes current Eblex levy funding investment in exports to pounds1.1 million for this financial year.

Peter Reynolds, of the Eblex South West office in Taunton, said: "Our European customers, particularly the French, have good memories of dealing with us pre foot and mouth disease. Clearly France is the most important outlet for lamb and we are focusing on expanding further into the lamb retail market there.

"We are now able to export lamb to France virtually around the year, and there aren't many other countries that can do that. It gives us a market advantage."

Mr Reynolds said the beef shortage in Europe had also given opportunities to respond at a time when there was "some useful new business to be had". Speaking at the Royal Show last week he said: "Europe is at least half a million tonnes short of beef, from right across the board, all sorts."

The Eblex international manager, Peter Hardwick explained that 2007 had been a difficult year, as last August's FMD outbreak had caused an export campaign to been put on hold.

He said: "Instead we focused on maintaining good working relationships with wholesalers and overseas retailers - and that approach is now paying off very obviously, looking at the rapid growth of demand for our quality lamb and beef."

He said the additional funding would allow Eblex to build on its existing public relations and advertising campaign, and a long- standing project to encourage exporters to develop overseas markets for the fifth quarter. Promoting our beef as a premium product for France, Italy, Spain and Belgium was being given a priority status.

Projections of the volume of exports were impressive, according to Eblex and AHDB (Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board) export manager J P Garnier. Lamb exports were pounds170 million worth last year and would be pounds280 million this year; beef was pounds100 million and would be pounds120 million, he said.

"The demand for good-quality dairy cows is very important. Clearly we are expecting further growth and we have very dynamic exporters and recovering markets - coupled with a low pound," Mr Garnier said.

Even pork exports were doing well, he said. To Germany they were up by 45 per cent, to the Netherlands by 24 per cent - and to Poland by 121 per cent.

Exports to Hong Kong were 4,200 tonnes, making it the fourth- largest market for British pork.

(c) 2008 Western Morning News, The Plymouth (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.