Sunday, January 14, 2007

New entrants may benefit UK beef trade

Romania and Bulgaria's entry into the EU this year could boost exports of British beef.

The two countries, which brought 30m new citizens to the EU when they joined on 1 January, consumed 93,000t of imported beef last year, according to latest Meat and Livestock Commission figures. About 73,000t of this came from Brazil.

But higher EU import tariffs on low quality beef mean it is no longer economically viable for South American countries to ship cargoes to Bulgaria and Romania. Export restrictions in Brazil and Argentina are also reducing shipments from South America.

Peter Hardwick, MLC international manager, said this meant Bulgaria and Romania would be forced to look elsewhere for supplies, which could offer opportunities for

UK farmers. "Romania and Bulgaria consume high amounts of beef, and while it isn't high quality at the moment, that could change and there could be future opportunities for quality beef. In the short term, offal markets show most potential."

Robert Forster, National Beef Association chief executive, said: "As standards of living rise and their economies develop, Romania and Bulgaria will become massive meat eaters, and there is no way they will produce enough for themselves."

And the eastern European market for our breeding cattle is bottomless. While exporting more pedigree cattle won't compensate for the loss of support in 2012, it will certainly help farmers."

But the accession of the two new countries could mean increased competition for the UK sheep industry. Romania exported 1.2m sheep in the first nine months of last year, a 6% increase on the year.

Mr Hardwick said a lack of EU-approved abattoirs meant the countries would be held back for some time, but they would see greater market presence in future. "Romania is already an active exporter of live animals to neighbouring countries such as Greece," he said.

* Independent consultant Peter Crichton said prospects for UK pig producers after the EU's expansion looked promising. "I don't think this will have any impact initially, but the hope is that pigmeat consumption will increase."

"Meat traders are reporting that new member states are already placing orders, which should help the EU pig market."

Farmers Weekly, 1/12/2007