French challenge lies ahead

A number of barriers will have to be overcome if exporters are to sell British beef into the French market once the export ban is lifted, according to the MLC's export manager in Paris, Remi Fourrier.

At present French retailers are not willing to sell British beef, canteens and restaurants are also reluctant and UK origin is excluded from specifications for the French social catering sector. he told a conference in the South West.

With French beef production falling and half of the country's consumption being cow beef there are market opportunities though, according to M. Fourrier. French dairy cow slaughterings are expected to fall further, more than 40 per cent of consumers are prepared to buy English beef and loyal importers are preparing to identify supply chains willing to accept UK identified beef.

Research carried out among French meat managers, butchers and buyers indicated positive perceptions of the texture, appearance, good value and rearing methods for English beef but there was still apprehension about production controls and quality along with residual concerns over BSE, said M. Fourrier. Nonetheless half said they would definitely or probably buy it with the total increasing to 58 per cent when a very competitive price was specified.

M. Fourrier said exporters must push sales or it would be a disaster. Quality assurance was a pre-requisite with quality and price being the main selling points. Work now had to begin with exporters and importers on English cow beef sales, and on promoting English beef with a range of activities including inward missions, brand development, point-of-sale material and open days.

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