Post-EU referendum opportunities for meat exports have been brought into focus by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).
The organisation united beef, sheep meat and pig meat exporters and other key industry stakeholders at its 12th annual Meat Export Conference in Warwickshire to start the dialogue on how to maximise opportunities in the new political landscape.
More than 100 delegates heard about developments in international markets and implications for the meat trade in the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote.
Setting the scene, AHDB chief executive Jane King described the referendum as a ‘game-changer’ for UK agriculture, outlining the priorities for AHDB as being to help levy payers make sense of the issues facing them and to help industry and Government secure the best trading environment for agricultural products.
She said: “Although we cannot understate the importance of the EU single market for UK food businesses, AHDB already has a strong track record in developing markets outside the EU, having successfully worked with Defra and UKTI to secure market access to China for pig meat and India for seed potatoes.
“This area of work will become ever more important once Brexit takes effect.”
AHDB head of livestock exports Jean-Pierre Garnier acknowledged challenges presented by tariff and non-tariff barriers, but pointed to a positive future for exports in both EU and non-EU markets.
“Given Friday’s result, I anticipate there will be three years of rough seas and uncertainty for the UK meat trade,” he said.
“However, our core strengths and unique selling points, such as our natural production systems and the high quality and great taste of our products remain in place and, therefore, the long-term prospects are highly favourable, provided we manage a smooth transition to a new, constructive trading agreement with the EU.”
Managing the complexity of market access was addressed by Dr Phil Hadley, AHDB Beef & Lamb head of global supply chain development, who highlighted the key role AHDB expertise plays in working with industry and Government to achieve market access approvals, driving wider market opportunities and opening up commercial activity.
Delegates also heard from Karen Morgan, Agriculture Councillor at the British Embassy in Beijing, who spoke of the ‘Golden Era’ in UK-China relations following President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to the UK. However, she reiterated that matching the expectations of the UK industry with the level of resource in China will be a key challenge moving forward.
“While there’s still a long way to go, negotiations to gain access for beef to the Chinese market have accelerated faster than expected,” she said.
“Steady progress is being made on getting pork processing plant approvals to broaden the number of plants and we are continuing to press for progress in the lucrative trotter market.”
AHDB is committed to supporting the agricultural industry to be best-placed, competitive and ambitious for growth following the decision to leave the EU.
Presentations from the conference will shortly be made available on the AHDB meat export conference page of the website.