Thursday, 12 September 2013

Working hard for further export success

Ongoing export success for UK farming is ensuring that EBLEX is working hard, cultivating further opportunities in existing markets and opening doors to new ones for beef and lamb.

Since January 2010 we have been busy, opening more than 60 non-EU markets to UK beef and lamb exports, for example, which has generated more than a three-fold increase in sales of beef and sheep meat to these markets. Another highly promising beef trade mission returned from Hong Kong earlier this year.

Why export? New international trade has created a significant opportunities for producers to reap the rewards of full carcase utilisation - opening for home livestock producers in ‘fifth quarter’ products, or offal, for example. What only recently represented a £2.2 million disposal cost, for parts of the carcase that have no appeal for the domestic consumer, has been turned into a rising export earner currently worth £15.5 million in export sales. Not only this, each carcase is being much more fully utilised for an unprecedented economic return. The benefits are twofold - it makes a major contribution to reducing waste and improving sustainability.

We have a promising platform on which to build, and our efforts are showing no signs of slowing. Last week head our head of trade development, Peter Hardwick, outlined to Government the potential benefits of free trade between the EU and the United States highlighted the potential wider benefits the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could bring to the beef and lamb sector at a meeting chaired by Food and Farming Minister David Heath and Cabinet Minister Kenneth Clarke.

While the UK currently has no US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved beef plants for export, negotiations on the EU-US TTIP will include tackling differences in regulations, standards and certification, issues central to the future export of beef and lamb to the US from the UK. Any future deal could lead to potentially wider economic benefits to the sector. While there are high-value, opportunities for beef and lamb in the US market, where we estimate the potential market to be in excess of £60 million per annum, there are also wider implications of what a future agreement could bring for our trade relationships with other Third Country markets. These countries often take their lead from what the US does. Should an agreement be reached, it would allow us to enter into a process with the US authorities to secure individual plant approval for exports. A key issue to be resolved will be recognition of equivalence on plant standards. However, ongoing talks are certainly a step in the right direction.

Even with the challenges of working across different time zones, Peter is this week in China as part of our ongoing initiative to work on securing ruminant access. While it will take time, we are taking every opportunity to move this forwards. This month will also see an EBLEX export delegation visit West Africa to explore potential further export opportunities in Ghana, Benin and the Ivory Coast where anticipated population growth is likely to drive an increasing demand for protein which UK exporters can potentially capitalise on. Next week will also see Secretary of State Owen Paterson will lead a food and drink delegation to Russia, including EBLEX, to examine potential future opportunities for UK exporters.

All of this points to what we’ve already said – a lot of good work has already taken place. Nothing happens overnight, but we have a firm platform on which to build for future export growth and our continuing efforts with other industry stakeholders will continue to play a pivotal role in this.