While much has been made of the potential for boosting meat sales to new markets when the UK leaves the EU, failure to gain export certificates to EU Member States would significantly hinder sales.
As a consequence, it was an issue that needed to be addressed before anything else, argued Liz Murphy, chief executive at the London-based International Meat Trade Association.
Murphy was addressing delegates at last month’s Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum keynote seminar in London on policy priorities for the UK food and drink industry – competitiveness, skills and access to export markets.
‘Dependent on the Government’
“There’s been a lot of talk about meat promotion, but a priority for us is that the meat sector is dependent on the Government to open the veterinary door,” said Murphy.
“For many countries, and certainly the key markets, if we have no export certificate we don’t have a possibility of exporting.”
Meanwhile, the threat of animal disease outbreaks was a key concern for those UK meat producers land processors looking to increase exports outside the EU, Murphy claimed.
“Although we’ve had our moments with other EU Member States, on balance in the event of an outbreak, being within the EU enables us to maintain access to a major market,” she explained.
“The poultry sector has been affected by avian influenza, which is something we are likely to have to live with in the future.
‘Trade with minimum disruption’
“While still in the EU, we can continue to trade with minimum disruption – but such an event can cause us great difficulties with other major markets.”
Murphy cited the example of South Africa, which is the UK’s top export market for poultry meat after the EU – but also one that had been closed to the UK since an avian influenza outbreak in 2017.
“We’ll be interested to see whether the UK government, in the future, might be prepared to look at how the US managed to gain entry back into the market,” Murphy suggested.
Despite the opportunities around new markets, Murphy reminded delegates that more than 90% of exports across five key product categories currently went to other EU countries.
However, for red meat offal exports, that proportion was just 36%.
“Obviously, the EU is nearer to home, so there’s less cost in delivery,” she explained. “But it is particularly those lower value products that we need to find a market for elsewhere.”