British meat exporters will follow Ireland’s strategy of focusing on green messaging, environmental credentials and sustainability when marketing food abroad, says head of Asia Pacific exports at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in the UK Johnathan Eckley.

Eckley described how the AHDB will be “going down that route” in a similar way to Bord Bia, because British food production’s environmental credentials are “so good like [Ireland’s]”.

He suggested that food producing countries that actually have strong environmental and grass-based meat production credentials, such as Ireland and the UK, need to be stronger at promoting these at a time when other countries, such as the highly grain-fed-dependent US, are claiming the same.

Eckley was speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal at food and beverage trade show Food Hotel Asia in Singapore this week. His role with the AHDB involves representing British producers and promoting their beef, lamb and pork across Asia.


However, on competition with Irish exporters, the British AHDB representative also said that Ireland and the UK are “very different”.

“It’s a competitive market space, but we’re very different to Ireland because we only export about 16% of our beef production. So, we’re very different to Ireland in that sense.

British food production's environmental credentials are "so good", like Ireland’s, says AHDB representative Jonathan Eckley. \ Philip Doyle

“But it’s really, really important for us to complement our home market. So, we’re all about, whether it’s the Irish sector, we want people to eat what’s a healthy balanced diet, red meats,” he said.

Eckley said that for British exports, there is “definitely huge potential across the Asia region”.

“We’ve done a lot of work on pigmeat and it’s kind of leading the way. It’s king here in Asia and in China, it’s the biggest pig market.”

China dependence

On a potential dependence on the unpredictable Chinese pigmeat market, Eckley said: “We’re trying to look at other markets where we’ve now got access for.

“Obviously, we’re in a post-Brexit scenario in the UK, so we’re looking at opportunities in a number of markets.

"We’ve recently gained access - 2019 for example, we gained access to Japan for beef and lamb. So that market is strategically important for us as a high-value market.

“So, there’ll be a number of markets that we’re looking at and seeing growth in,” he said.

Asked what beef cuts Britain is exporting to Japan and wider Asia, he said “it’s a bit of a mixture” and that cuts change depending on price in what he described as a “pretty price-sensitive market”.

Trade agreement

In June, the UK and Australian governments agreed a trade deal, which sees Australia gain further sheep and beef access to export to the UK.

On what the UK has gained from the deal, Jonathan said: “For the agriculture sector, for the meat sector, you know there’s not a lot to be gained to Australia, from the UK. We have access for pigmeat, so we do send a little bit of pigmeat there, but we don’t have access for beef and lamb.

“As AHDB, we have to look at the bigger piece and I guess on those trade deals, it’s important we can trade on level terms with people who compete.”

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