A group of UK livestock industry representatives has called on the Government to start acting now to help secure new export outlets for the industry.
The UK Livestock Brexit Group said Brexit 'presents a tremendous opportunity for the UK livestock sector'.
It highlighted progress made by the livestock sector, alongside its levy bodies and Government departments, as well as the poultry sector, in commencing the important process of finding new markets since the referendum.
But group chairman Chris Dodds, of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, said the UK and devolved Governments have a 'necessary and critical role in helping to support and accelerate the long hard work required'.
Only effective action by Government can open some doors for new markets overseas, with the rules set by other countries, he said.
The group is urging Government to engage now with livestock farming sector organisations to put in place a strategic framework for the future of the industry with high standards at home and energetic promotion abroad.
High quality producer
“The UK is a high-quality producer of premium meat products, with traceability, good health and welfare and food safety among the key attributes of the UK livestock supply chain. We need to champion Great British produce and make sure that trade deals enable our producers to maintain high standards,” said Mr Dodds.
The UK Livestock Brexit Group believes the Government should emphasise the provenance of UK produce and its existing high standards in trade promotion to help ensure high UK standards see a premium price.
That will help to replace imports at home, as work progresses to ensure standards are not undermined through those imports that do enter the market, it said.
Mr Dodds added: “While the group's view is that maintaining access to the EU market should remain the priority, we have also opened up export markets that many British consumers may not even realise exist.
“Products such as chicken feet and pig’s trotters have limited demand from the UK consumer, but there is good demand for these, along with prime meat products, in new Asian markets, adding value for UK producers.”
Export with China
A new export deal with China will bring a £200 million boost to the UK food industry and support 1,500 jobs, farming minister George Eustice has announced last week.
Taking advantage of the growing demand for British food and drink in China, seven new businesses in England and Northern Ireland have secured access to export pork.
This includes three producers who, in a first for the UK, will export pig trotters.
Mr Dodds continued: “This is the ethos of successful trade relationships, but it is best done in close alliance with Government, since winning these markets takes hard, sustained work, involving Government.
“We know it takes time and commitment. Livestock production and trade is a long-term, complicated and technical subject. We are pleased that ministers have now been talking about transition periods, giving the time needed for the work to be done.
“Countries don’t take short cuts with food; why would they? But it means this takes time, and to be ready with markets after Brexit we need to be working hard now,” continues Mr Dodds.
“As a group of independent dedicated livestock organisations, we offer unrivalled knowledge, understanding and representation of the entire UK livestock industry. We want to work with Government to assist in the development of a dynamic industry for future generations and the UK economy.”
The UK Livestock Brexit Group was formed in August 2016 and now includes representation from 21 of the leading bodies with livestock interests across England, Scotland and Wales.