European retailers commit to UK lamb

Two major European retailers have agreed to switch to 100% UK lamb, Eblex export manager Jean-Pierre Garnier announced at the export conference in Stoneleigh yesterday (26 June).

Belgium retailer Delhaize had now switched from southern hemisphere lamb to British and Irish lamb, while Carrefour in Italy has agreed to source all of its lamb from England from September.

Garnier told Meatinfo.co.uk that the deals were “great news” for the industry, and the result of considerable hard work by Eblex.

“The agreement with Carrefour has taken us eight years, but we got there and persistence paid off in the end,” he said.

Importance of exports

Garnier told delegates that healthy lamb exports were vital to the UK industry, which currently exports around 35% of its production. He added that France was still the biggest market for UK lamb, accounting for 50.6% of exports in January-April 2013, but that Eblex was working to reduce reliance on the French market.

“We are very keen to get a better balance on exports, so we are pushing in other European markets,” he said.

Third-country markets are also key to developing lamb exports, said Garnier. He pointed out that Hong Kong is now the second-largest market for UK lamb, accounting for 13% of total exports.

Production limitations

However, he added that UK lamb supply shortages were hindering efforts to develop export markets.

“We simply don’t have enough product and some people are not buying because the quality and volume is not there. We are a bit on the rocks at the moment with the shortage of lamb,” he told Meatinfo.co.uk.

Garnier also said it was vital to start exporting more lamb cuts, with the UK currently lagging behind Ireland in this potentially profitable area. “The global market is going towards cuts and so we need to supply more cuts to the market,” he said.