Promotion the key for export

Exporters reforged links in Germany last week as the industry counts the costs of export disruption.

Anuga was the first major international platform to give the UK industry the opportunity to fly the flag following foot-and-mouth (FMD) and bluetongue, and that opportunity was seized with both hands.

"It was essential that we were out here," said Andrew Garvey, marketing manager for EBLEX. "Feedback from customers has been very good. They're all desperate for us to start exporting beef and lamb."

There appears to be little issue over quality or safety with customers on the Continent, but confidence has been knocked when it comes to reliability of supply, some exporters have reported.

The biggest effect of the outbreaks has been the simple disruption, said Graham Heffer of Romford Wholesale Meats. "It has set us back - to get back to where we were will take around three to six months. The stop-start situation has put a lot of customers off, so it's been a rebuilding job.

"Being at Anuga has done a lot of good - just being able to talk to people. We're starting to win them back."

Promotion will be a key tool to regaining a foothold in the French market, says Michael Dundon, MD of Dunbia Paris. "People are keen to get things back up and running again, but it's got to be price-orientated to regain some of their confidence. In France, we'll have to do some deep-cut promotions to get that back."

UK lamb has disappeared from shelves on the Continent, and he said the only way to get that back is by being competitive on price.

Adrian Thomas, assistant factory manager at Dunbia's Llanybydder, warned that farmers should not expect too much: "Getting exports back will improve revenue for farmers, but I don't think it's going to be as great as they'd like it to be, certainly not in the short term."

The sales period will also be compressed, said Dundon. "Lamb sells well in France between June through to December, so that leaves us November to December, around 10 weeks," he said. "So we'll be cramming it in and that will hit home on prices and returns."

However, some markets, such as Spain, are reluctant to commit to any promotional activity, due to a lack of confidence in supply following the stop-start nature of recent months. Dundon said Spain was hit hard by the fact promotions were planned when the bans came in, forcing retailers to source inferior product at higher prices from elsewhere.