Bright Future for UK Beef Exports

UK - After a period of depression, the future looks brighter for both the beef and sheep sectors at the moment, driven by strong export demand.
calendar icon 6 May 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

Rob Wills, BLG's Executive Manager, said: "The vitality of markets in Britain depends fundamentally on an open market where competition can bring appropriate returns to producers. It is incumbent on our Government to help the industry export and do all in its power to reopen markets for livestock, genetics and meat that have been closed to us since the FMD virus leak from Government premises in Surrey last year."

"The vitality of markets in Britain depends fundamentally on an open market"
Rob Wills, BLG's Executive Manager

One-third more fresh and frozen UK beef was exported during January and February than in the same period of 2007 according to the Economics team of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Meat Services (successors to MLC). The fall in the value of the pound sterling in this period against the euro has also helped. In addition, UK cattle numbers fell by two per cent from a year earlier, leading to tightening supplies and higher prices.

Margins in the beef industry remain tight, but if cattle prices continue to rise, the rate of decline may well slow - at least in the short term. Beef from the UK is expected to remain in demand, as the fall in cattle numbers means that slaughterings are forecast around four per cent lower this year.

The number of sheep in the UK rose in the December 2007 survey, driven by a rise in the number of lambs under one year old. 2008 slaughterings are consequently forecast higher and this increased availability of supplies is expected to help support a rise in sheep meat exports. Lower production levels in some EU member states will also boost demand for British lamb.

AHDB Economics team Business Support Manager Jonathan Eckley said: "The availability of cow beef and favourable exchange rates saw a 42 per cent rise in shipments to the Netherlands during January and February and exports to Ireland nearly doubled during the same period, compared with the same two months of last year. If sterling remains weak, UK exports should remain competitive on the EU market."

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