Wednesday, 9 January 2013

2013 – Opportunities and challenges

Working with the industry for a sustainable and efficient beef and lamb sector has long been our mantra and continues to be so as we start 2013.

This year will again present opportunities and challenges for the sector. A joined up approach among industry stakeholders will no doubt go a long way to making the most of these opportunities and meeting the challenges we face.

Bearing this in mind, Secretary of State Owen Paterson’s recent speech at the Oxford Conference made for encouraging reading, not least his recognition of farming’s contribution to the economy and benefits to the landscape.

The red meat sector’s contribution to the English economy is something we examined and early last year with the ‘The real value of English red meat Economic analysis’. It concluded that it is estimated that the net economic contribution of the English red meat industry is £1.67 billion. In his speech, Mr Paterson underlined the wider economic significance of farming to the UK economy – supporting industries that add nearly £90 billion to the UK economy. Positive messages indeed.

Beyond the economic headlines, it was also encouraging to hear his endorsement of farming in enhancing some of our most valuable habitats to managing the landscape. Again, this is an area that EBLEX has looked into with our Landscapes without Livestock report, highlighting the crucial role livestock plays in maintaining the English countryside. It draws attention to the potential impact on some of England’s most cherished landscapes if beef cattle herds and sheep flocks declined or disappeared as a result of the industry becoming unsustainable.

The opening of new export markets, in particular Russia, for beef and lamb exports were also mentioned, as was his visit to Hong Kong with EBLEX to promote British beef.

While these positives stood out for the beef and lamb sector in Mr Paterson’s speech, his acknowledgement of the threats of Bovine TB and Schmallenberg highlighted just two of the challenges facing the industry as we move forwards in 2013. EBLEX will continue to monitor developments on these and other issues and work with the industry to help tackle them.