Global outlook

Countries exporting meats to the EU have a devil of a job keeping up with all the rules and regulations emanating from Brussels.

Quotas and tariffs, production systems and feed programmes come under scrutiny and, in addition, each major retailer has its own set of demands. When the meat arrives, it goes through a final check at the arrival port.

The quality and safety checks are always excellent. You could say that we tend to take all this for granted. Our retail shelves are well-stocked with UK and imported produce, and the foodservice market has always taken to quality imports because of the consistency of eating and size of portion.

Sometimes, we are accused of hiding the true facts about imports and the part they play in our daily lives. Veterans in the business know the virtues of imports and they will be happy if I set out the stall.

According to DEFRA, about 40% of all meats and poultry are imported - this includes product from the Irish Republic. The product breakdown goes like this: poultry 29%, pork 55%, bacon 62%, lamb 35%, beef 27%.

These figures include everything - canned, preserved and meat products.Most of these imports do not have a large marketing and promotional budget. Even New Zealand lamb ads seem less frequent these days. So the quality has to speak for itself. Traditional suppliers to our market have had over 120 years' experience of growing, packing and shipping, so they certainly know their way around the meat world.

But even they have to face the global problems of finance - credit - and the harsh way in which the banks and insurers tend to put all human endeavours in the same bag. Surely food is a low-risk product.

Everyone knows this. So what are they playing at?

Liz Murphy, director, International Meat Trades Association

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