Export conference highlights opportunities for future growth

Opportunities for market growth and insights into the performance of the red meat sector were discussed at the Eblex Export Conference which took place this week (25 June).

The event, held at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, was opened by food and farming minister George Eustice who spoke of the challenging times currently being faced by the UK beef industry.

He said the issue of beef prices was the number one topic of discussion at all the recent agriculture events he had attended. Farmers are losing up to 200 per animal it is a significant blow to those farmers. He also confirmed that the recently announced Defra summit on the beef price crisis would take place on 1 July.

Eustice also commented on the progress that had been made by the UK and Chinese government on the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, which could see UK beef and lamb exports resume to the country. However, he warned it was a long progress, and could take between two and five years for the market to fully open.

The conference, entitled Where next for UK meat exports, then saw speeches from Jean-Pierre Garnier, export manager for Eblex and Bpex; Remi Fourrier, AHDB France; Victoria Santini, head of Asia, IGD; and Rob Furse, UKTI Food & Drink.

The strength of UK sheepmeat was highlighted, with the UK the largest producer of sheepmeat and shipments to non-EU markets having increased 53%. Garnier added that, by 2015, UK sheep production was predicted to represent 45% of all EU commercialised production.

Trade with third countries has also taken on an ever more important role, Eblex senior chair John Cross told delegates, with demand for fifth-quarter products also on the up. However, Cross added that it was clear there are still challenges to address.

In Garniers speech he pointed to a statistic that predicted the number of middle-class people will increase from 1.8bn in 2010, to more than 4bn by 2050. Meat consumption will grow by 60-100% by 2050, with the largest rise to take place in the first part of that period, he said, adding that growth would take place in Asia, Africa and South America.

However, he said that growth in the UK market was constrained by limited supplies, and the need to increase export value. He said the market needed to respond to demand, and that it was key to understand the supply chain and the end-consumer.

Fourrier then spoke about the position of English lamb in the French market, before Santini talked to delegates about the Asian premium meat retail market, and the trends impacting the category.

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