global outlook

The weather is, no doubt, the number one topic of conversation in the UK. But I often wonder what is number two and believe this is where men and women split. The men will probably comment on their teams' current fortunes or the activities of Jeremy Clarkson. Depending on their age group, the ladies will most likely talk about the price of food and the words "shocking", "outrageous" will probably feature. Indeed, the last couple of years have seen some fierce price hikes in most foods.

Meat is no exception. Around the world, meat prices have been pushing upwards as the underlying demand increases, due to population growth and the fact that an increasing number of people in the BRIC countries are now able to afford more meat in their diets. The benefit to British exporters is great and good luck to them. But UK importers have been less fortunate, thanks to the change in world meat flows. The EU no longer commands the field among overseas suppliers and its regulations, quotas and, sometimes, nit-picking actions make it less attractive than before.

This is the reality of international trading even before we add in the swings and roundabouts of exchange rates, fuel surcharges, and many other variable costs. On the other hand, the greater interest in the fine quality from certain countries the fascination of tender flavourful beef from South America or Australia and the ever-popular love of New Zealand lamb makes it all worthwhile. The revival of consumer interest in cooking and the special appeal of the ever-growing range of speciality restaurants is encouraging. But we must never forget that it is in everyone's interest to get the basic flow of meat and poultry right. Continued shortages will put meat even further into the luxury bracket. So the importer has a special responsibility in the supply and demand scenario.

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