AHDB Red Meat Conference highlights opportunities for exporters

Exports of red meat from the UK were worth more than £1.45 billion in 2021 – up £33 million on pre-pandemic levels despite a challenging year for exporters.

At AHDB’s Red Meat Export Conference on Thursday, industry leaders and exporters were told that overseas trade continues to provide a significant boost to the livestock sector and new market access wins could provide further opportunities in the year ahead.

Delegates also heard that as well as the recent success in gaining access to the US, Mexico and Chile, AHDB continues to work with government and wider industry to open further markets for the red meat sector including for pork to Vietnam.

AHDB’s International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley opened the conference in Coventry by highlighting the important work of AHDB as well as discussing the opportunities and challenges faced by UK exporters.

Dr Hadley said: “With the EU exit and the liberalisation of trade for the UK, the impact of Covid and the complete shut-down of food service, increased cost of production which has created price pressures in the supply chain and now conflict in Eastern Europe, never has there been a more challenging time.

“But last year, red meat exports were worth £1.45 billion, providing a significant financial boost for the livestock sector and the supply chain and if we didn’t have these strong export markets, the impact would be felt all the way back to the farm. That’s why building on existing and new markets is so important for the entire livestock sector.”

AHDB’s Head of Asia Pacific Jonathan Eckley told the conference that despite a number of factors impacting trade last year, many markets increased imports of UK red meat – in particular, markets in Asia.

He said the Asian marketplace continues to be incredibly important for the pork sector, representing 55 per cent of pig meat exports in 2021. Last year, pork exports to the Philippines increased three-fold and shipments to South Korea doubled.

And while China, the biggest export market for UK pork, imported 16 per cent less pork last year than 2020, China was still home to 42 per cent of all pork exports, with shipments of offal up 17 per cent.

He added that while the EU remains a key market for beef exports, representing 71 per cent of beef shipments from the UK, third country markets are growing.

Japan, which opened its doors to UK beef in 2019, also saw a 48 per cent increase in shipments last year – which Mr Eckley said was a credit to UK exporters as it is a complex and competitive market to establish new business.

Delegates also heard from AHDB Market Access Manager Ouafa Doxon who talked about the work of AHDB, government and industry, to gain access to key target markets. She explained that discussions were ongoing with China to open the market for UK sheep meat, as well as continued efforts to secure access for pork in Vietnam.

She said: “Work has been ongoing since 2017 to open the market in Vietnam for UK pork, but when Covid hit, audits were put on hold. However, dialogue remained open which is important if you are to remain a priority market.

“We are delighted to report that this has paid off because a few weeks ago the Vietnamese authorities agreed to an audit which is expected to take place in spring of this year.”

The conference also heard from Dr Awal Fuseini, AHDB’s Halal Sector Senior Manager, who highlighted the opportunities in the Middle East and Africa for sheep meat, specifically Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Oman and Bahrain.

Dr Fuseini told delegates that the Middle East is a major meat importer – importing 90 per cent of its beef and sheep meat. He highlighted there is a growing interest in UK products, presenting a number of potential opportunities for exporters.

Delegates also heard about the environmental challenges for the livestock sector from AHDB’s Head of Environment and Resource Management Jon Foot, as well as an update on the European market dynamics from AHDB agents working across markets including France, Belgium and Portugal.

The conference also included a presentation from Kent Bacus, the Senior Director of International Trade and Market Access for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) based in Washington.

He talked about the US cattle and beef sector, highlighting the country’s diverse industry, consumer trends, export markets and the growth in shipments to Asia, with Korea being the biggest export market last year, followed by Japan and then China.

He also highlighted the importance of establishing stronger bilateral trade terms between the UK and the US, with the US beef import quota already over 80 per cent filled for the entire year. Once filled, the tariff will rise to 26.4 per cent, making it very difficult for UK exporters to compete on costs.

The conference finished with a recorded ministerial update from Mike Freer, Minister for Exports, who talked about the importance of export markets – highlighting the work of government to remove barriers and tariffs to make it easier and more cost-effective for businesses to ship their products overseas.

Anyone who missed AHDB’s Red Meat Export conference can now watch videos of the presentations online.

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