Cutting a dash in Italy

AS IMAGE has been a major issue for British beef since its ban a decade ago, it was apt that Defra Minister Lord Bach, should host a dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel in Milan on the day the ban was lifted

to show heavyweight Italian gastronomes just what they've been missing.

Half pages were taken out in the Italian press the day of the dinner to hammer the message home. Lord Bach and EBLEX chairman John Cross, who attended the CIBUS Food Fair in Milan the following day, were eager to promote UK beef in the Italian market. "The Italians are looking for quality of service which is advantageous for us as we have higher production costs than the rest of Europe. They are looking at an Aberdeen Angus supply chain and top notch Limousin cross."

EBLEX has been given £400,000 over two years to promote English beef. "We have to knock on doors politely and not push aggressively," Cross told the Journal. Beef prices, he said, were rising and would continue to harden as con?dence in the UK product grows over the next few years. "For 10 years we have remained captive in an impoverished domestic market. But that is set to change now," Cross added.

Jeff Martin, EBLEX's Italian export agent, said the Italian market had shown a lot of interest in UK beef. The fact the ban had been lifted and there had been nothing but positive press was good news. However, he pointed out that buyers in Italy were still haggling over prices with exporters. The price would rise later as multiples were still nervous about consumer reaction. Research has shown that there is still a residue of reluctance for cheaper cuts.

The EBLEX stand at CIBUS was inundated with supermarket buyers on Saturday afternoon. "These buyers are looking for high quality bull and cowmeat carcases and this is the market we should be aiming for as they are prepared to pay more for our beef than the Spanish," said MLC's export manager Jean Pierre Garnier. "The work begins now. We will be inviting Italian meat buyers to England to meet our producers."