In this third part of Farmers Guardian’s special series on exports, Alex Black spoke to UK companies selling meat worldwide as new markets open for British businesses.
Meat exporters were utilising an increasing number of export markets to achieve better carcase balance for UK livestock as well as accessing niche markets around the world.
Cuts which were unpopular in the UK could find strong demand in other parts of the world.
And there were further opportunities to expand exports, with the UK Government and levy bodies working on opening up new markets around the world.
Major markets have opened up in the Far East, with the UK celebrating a win in June as China agreed market access for beef.
This was estimated to be worth £230 million in the first five years alone.
Japan also opened its market to British beef and lamb in January in a deal estimated to be worth £127m over the first five years.
For lamb, exports were particularly important, with France taking the lion’s share of UK exports. With challenges around consumption in the UK, as well as a preference for leg meat and competition from New Zealand, export markets helped to maintain demand for British sheepmeat.
However, Brexit has added a great deal of uncertainty for lamb exporters, with concerns over the impact of potential tariffs and non-tariff barriers on the export trade.
And for those producing more niche added value products such as salami there were also opportunities around the globe.
SELLING SALAMI AROUND THE WORLD
LOOK outside your village to grow your business as there is a big wide world out there.
That was the message from Ruth Davies, owner of Cwmfarm Charcuterie Products, Swansea, who started exporting about two years ago.
Wales might not be the first place which comes to mind when thinking of salami, but Mrs Davies was now targeting countries including Finland, Canada and even Denmark with her products.
“There is a big, wide world out there. It is about growth, to be able to grow and get your product out there to the other side of the world,” she said.
“When our first salami went to Helsinki, it was amazing.”
But she added there were difficult sides to exporting too.
“It is red tape and paperwork. I had weeks and weeks of trying to get on to different countries’ lists,” she said.
Mrs Davies currently has 36 breeding sows and could have as many as 180-200 piglets on-farm in summer.
Rare breeds, including Saddlebacks and Large Blacks, were kept on-farm and Mrs Davies said they were the ‘perfect’ pigs for making salami.
They also kept Highland cattle and were now producing Welsh biltong, looking to provide charcuterie products with a unique Welsh twist, such as laverbread.
“The pigs are from our farm. It is our story as well,” she added.
“Salami is difficult to make. People like it and I am hoping to get it out there to the world.”
And exporting has also brought new ideas for the farmer, who has been involved with the Atlantic Food Export programme, which brings together producers from different countries looking to export.
Through this she managed to visit countries including Portugal and Spain, and other businesses were scheduled to come to Wales. Mrs Davies started off by visiting trade shows.
“My first trade event was Taste Wales,” she said.
“Some buyers from the United States had fallen in love with the products.
“As we could not export to the US, because of the ban, they asked us to export some products to a sister company in Toronto, Canada.
“It took me about 10-12 weeks to get on the approval list, but now we are on it.
“I find I am looking more for exports. Our product is cured, so it is very easy for us to be able to ship it out.”
She was now planning to further expand exports.
“Recently we had an email from Denmark. It is getting out to those trade events and talking to people. Other countries are very interested in our product,” she said.
“In March, some buyers came from Japan which has recently opened up its market.”
SHEEPMEAT FIRM TARGETS MUSLIM MARKET
BRITISH expertise and a natural environment which supports sheep production meant the UK was well-placed to provide the EU market with high quality products.
About a third of British lamb was exported, predominantly to the EU which imports a lot of lamb as it does not have the same natural resources, expertise or breeding flock.
And halal sheepmeat company Euro Quality Lambs has been focusing on this export market since it started in 1992 with grassfed lamb in demand, according to managing director Rizvan Khalid.
He said: “We get benefit from a better price for export spec lambs and there is also an outlet for the smaller hill lambs, for example to southern Europe where they prefer smaller lambs.
“Without this there would be fewer market opportunities for British farmers to maximise the natural grazing land available.”
He added it also helped balance offal sales.
“Ultimately, the export markets generate more customers and underpin prices to benefit farmgate prices,” said Mr Khalid.
Euro Quality Lambs was supplying primarily into France and Germany, as well as the rest of Europe.
“There is a growing Muslim market on the continent and our natural strengths as a Muslimowned business aware of their religious and cultural needs allows us to target this market,” he added.
Mr Khalid said there were also opportunities in the Middle East, China and North America, but these would be ‘high value, low volume’ products.
Grass-fed lamb was a big selling point and Mr Khalid also highlighted the variety of breeds suited to the different landscapes across the UK.
“As a result, we can supply different size carcases to the markets that value them the most - so lighter lambs for southern Europe and heavier lambs for the north,” he said.
While the British brand was valued in certain markets, Mr Khalid said the industry needed to market it better, with many customers associating it more with Big Ben than ‘lush, green countryside’.
Culturally, sheepmeat was a big part of the diet in the Islamic market and he said the industry needed to ‘nurture’ it to ensure it stays so.
“We also need to reverse the decline in the mainstream market by positioning lamb for healthy, environmentally conscious consumers who want something a little exciting,” Mr Khalid said.
“There are so many global recipes which are associated with lamb - from Moroccan tagines to Turkish grills, Indian curries and Mongolian stews.
“We need to make it a more exciting category for younger consumers in particular with new product development and interesting flavours to hopefully keep them coming back for more.”