Friday, 28 June 2013

Underlining the economic role of exports

Austerity and economic revival. Phrases that have become commonplace in the last few years for reasons we are all aware of.

Boosting exports has long been heralded as a way of kick-starting the UK economic revival and this week we heard from Food and Farming Minister David Heath MP about the beef and lamb sector’s potential to drive export-led growth, built on a thriving domestic farming and agricultural industry.

Encouragingly, more than 100 delegates at the ninth EBLEX Export Conference heard Mr Heath, speaking via a pre-recorded video message, underline his determination to see the UK get the share of the global export market that he feels it deserves.

We’ve already made a good start, opening more than 60 non-EU markets for beef and lamb, for example, since August 2010, but there’s still more work to do. Importantly, this was acknowledged with the UK cited as being ‘ahead of the curve’ of the EU-27 in terms of exports, with the value of UK meat exports to countries outside the EU increasing by around 80 per cent between 2009 and 2012, compared to 75 per cent from the EU as a whole.

Addressing the conference, Mr Heath said it showed what a great potential we have in this sector for export-led growth and thanked the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and EBLEX for all the work carried out in this area. Last year, the UK exported 120,000 tonnes of beef and veal worth £389 million, and 95,000 tonnes of lamb worth £352 million. He added that EBLEX should have a key role, not just in boosting UK demand, but in opening up new overseas markets.

Delegates at this year’s conference heard from EBLEX export manager Jean-Pierre Garnier about the development of international meat markets. He outlined the key targets for lamb exports – China, Saudi Arabia, USA, Japan, South Africa and the Dominican Republic – and for beef – China, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Bosnia and Taiwan.

The focus of attention, however, was on Russia – the story so far and the challenges still faced. Potential exports of ox livers, hearts and tongue, beef trimmings, flanks and shins, premium steak meat, lamb, lamb cuts and racks present huge opportunities. While market access has been secured, Mr Garnier stressed that technical issues still needed to be overcome before exports could commence. Its importance, however, was clear, not least due to its limited production but strong demand for quality beef and lamb.

The over arching message was that we are moving in the right direction in terms of making the most of export opportunities but more can still be done. Not only will it help fuel the export-led growth, highlighted by Mr Heath, but help maximise returns for producers via full carcase utilisation and finding the most lucrative markets for each cut. A win, win for all concerned.

As Mr Heath concluded: “I passionately believe in the excellence of the produce that we produce in this country. It’s an easy sell wherever we go in the world and exports are key to the growth in our economy that we all want to see.”