Praise for £56m beef and lamb exports

IN FIGURES released yesterday, it was revealed that Scotland exported some £56 million worth of beef and lamb last year, with 8,000 tonnes of beef and 9,300 tonnes of lamb leaving these shores for mainland Europe, writes Andrew Arbuckle.

Commenting on these figures, Quality Meat Scotland chairman Donald Biggar said he was pleased to see growth in the exports of lamb, and also that beef exports were holding steady. Looking to the future, he added that a number of new outlets were opening up and that provided optimism for the future.

The big plus for the export trade has been the strength of the euro against sterling but the other side of the equation is that a number of European countries are still in deep recession, thus cutting sales of premium quality beef.

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Rita Piva, a QMS business development manager based in Italy, said that while there was a great deal of interest in Scotch beef, Italy had not yet emerged from the recession.

Her business development colleagues, David Chiffoleau, who looks after the French market for QMS, and Huub Schoemaker, who does the same job in the Benelux countries, said they were experiencing similar problems.

Part of the competition comes from South American countries, although meat from that part of the world generally heads for lower value parts of the market. With the collapse of their economy, the Irish are also trying to offload beef in Europe.

Piva reported that the Irish no longer sell cow beef in the market.

They now call it "female beef'" to try and get away from the discounted position that always surrounds the selling of older cattle.

Despite the competition, all three believed there was a growing market for Scottish beef on the Continent, although it would be very much at the top end of the market heading to top restaurants and quality retailers.

The position with lamb exports is quite different, with at least one big supermarket chain buying Scotch lamb on a regular basis.

The other end of the market from sirloins and fillets, the selling of tripes and carcase skirts into Europe is also moving ahead.

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The UK has no great tradition of eating the non-red meat parts of the carcase, but this is not the case across the North Sea and container-loads of what is called in the trade "fifth quarter" meat are now regularly going across to Rungis, the main market in Paris.