Is the UK meat industry its own worst enemy? The Anuga Food Fair in Cologne last week brought up some interesting points.
Generally, our customers on the Continent are not too fussed about our outbreak of foot-and-mouth (FMD), let alone bluetongue, and are keen for us to get our product back into the market. The biggest irritation for them has been the disruption. Others appear to have been wondering what the fuss is about. As one person pointed out, they have FMD in Italy, but they don't kick up a stink about it. "They're probably laughing their heads off at us and wondering what's so special about our FMD," he said.
Is that the case? Is the industry becoming something of a drama queen when something like this happens? Or are we just open, honest and upstanding with our problems (not a bad way to be). Do other countries simply dig a big hole and attempt to bury the issue without mentioning it? A lot of questions, but I think I'll leave you to come up with your own answers.
Disease issues aside, the overall impression I picked up from Anuga is that the industry is facing massive change in the years ahead. With feed costs high and unlikely to fall any great distance in the near future, every producer is feeling the squeeze and looking for higher prices. Supply dynamics are changing as well, with the show seeing a far greater numbers of visitors from the Far East. And with rising affluence in third markets, the UK and Europe will no longer be the number-one destination for some exporting nations.
When you mix in the growing pressures of climate change and environmental lobbying, we're likely to see some significant alterations to the meat landscape.
For a flavour of the show and the issues discussed, see our coverage on pages 12-13.