Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Opportunities and challenges for British red meat highlighted at AHDB Export Conference

Jonathan Eckley, Senior Red Meat Exports Manager, looks at the opportunities and challenges for British meat in the global marketplace that were discussed at the AHDB Meat Export conference.

The strong performance of British meat exports was highlighted at the 13th Meat Export Conference which took place at the Warwick Hilton on 29 June. Minister for Food and Farming, George Eustice, addressed the 120-strong audience with a particular focus on Brexit and responded to questions from the participants. Among the speakers, Celio Cella, a Shanghai-based meat importer discussed the Chinese market for premium, branded meats and Pr. Alan Matthews of Trinity College Dublin, a renowned expert on food trade, reviewed the Brexit situation.

HMRC data, discussed at the conference, indicates that for the first five months of 2017, UK sheep meat exports have been up and increased by 18% on the year to 34,000 tonnes. Although exports to markets outside the EU more than doubled on the year, it’s worth noting that they only accounted for around 7% of total exports. Sheep meat offal shipments in the five month period also show growth, driven by a 62% increase in shipments to destinations outside of the EU.



The latest in AHDB’s series of Horizon reports, ‘The WTO and its Implications for UK Agriculture’ was also launched at the conference. Previous Horizon publications have examined the trading relationship the UK may have with the EU, post-Brexit. What many have not considered is that, regardless of whether a trade agreement is in place with the EU, the UK will need to abide by World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules affecting agricultural and trade policy when it exits the EU. This is explored in the latest report.

Brexit presents some certainties, as co-phrased by Michel Barnier, by the end of March 2019, the UK will become de facto a Third Country outside of Europe. This has major implications for the UK Beef and Lamb sector. The export trade will also be influenced by changes in import conditions and tariffs with Third Countries. Shipment certificates, Export Health Certificates and certificates of origin will accompany each consignment, however small it may be. There will be border controls of documentation and some physical inspections. This certainly provides some challenges in terms of being prepared for this new situation.



Although Brexit presents our sector with many challenges, it may also provide an opportunity to develop regulatory and policy measures that fit the UK’s unique needs which play to our strengths. The horizon reports provide an excellent reference for the many issues surrounding Brexit.


The meat export conference offered a unique forum where the complex issues and prospects related to exports were presented and discussed. It is also an important event where processors, traders and stakeholders from trade associations and government bodies can meet. It has become an important date in the industry’s calendar and will only become more important in the lead up to Brexit.