The vast number of processing and wholesale companies represented in UECBV - 16,000 in all - impressed me. It is when you hear facts like this that you grasp the sheer size of the vast enterprise known as the European meat business.
Of course, we are divided into a range of specialities and geographic regions, but it is surprising how well we all get along with each other, when much of the time we are commercial competitors. Sharing adversity is always good for fellowship, and that is how it seemed this year.
You know, this happens very rarely in our business. But this time, all of Europe seems to be trying to push water uphill. Wherever you go, the talk is of emerging livestock shortages and processing facilities running well below normal levels. Plants are having to use all their skills to keep things stable and still earn a crust.
Another major factor is the financial crisis, which has brought hardship to many companies right across Europe, with facilities curtailed and the insurance of credit almost non-existent. Meat in volume needs a lot of working capital. So stocks are lighter than ever.
But despite all this, it seems that equality in misery can be a unifying force! It was good to see some real determination at work. Increasingly, Brussels is where we have to focus and a strong European trade association is critical.
The general feeling across Europe is that we are now at the low point. Changes will happen - but we will survive with a stronger and even more dedicated industry.
Liz Murphy, Director International Meat Trade Association