There is now a growing belief that beef export opportunities will beckon in the UK for Irish meat processers over the coming years.   

This was one of the recurring themes discussed at a recent spring webinar hosted by The Andersons Centre i.e. the strong probability of beef production levels falling-off considerably in England.

The Leicestershire-based consultancy provides one of the most insightful perspectives into developments taking place within UK agriculture as a whole.

Driving the move out of beef on the part of English farmers will be the termination of the basic payment. The value of this support measure will be halved in 2024. It will be completely terminated four years thereafter.

Impact on the sector

English livestock farmers share one very important aspect to their respective business models: In most years, the basic payment accounts for 75% or more of the profits that they generate.

Assuming that English beef production levels start to decline, it makes sense that Irish meat can help fill the gap in the market that will be created.

But it may not be that straightforward of an opportunity to avail of.

Recent trade deals signed by the UK with New Zealand and Australia leave the door open for significantly enhanced imports of beef coming into Britain from the southern hemisphere.

The volumes of such imports are hard to predict at this time. If demand for beef continues to grow in China, then Australia and New Zealand will not need the UK market to meet their respective goals.

However, if this turns out not to be the case, then our Antipodean friends will come knocking with some vigour.

Marketing Irish beef in the UK

Given these circumstances, the role for Bord Bia to up its marketing and promotional game in the UK seems obvious.

Other developments, including the widely talked about Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for 'Irish Grass Fed Beef', will help this cause significantly.

Fundamentally, the British beef sector does not fear imports from Ireland. This cannot be said for imports from the likes of New Zealand and Australia.

Here, the concern would be that the two southern hemisphere countries would flood Britain with cheap beef - meat that had not been produced to the same standards as those demanded of British producers.    

One very effective way of Ireland further cementing its presence within the UK beef market would be for Red Tractor and Bord Bia to officially recognise both of their farm quality assurance schemes as being mutually compatible.

I doubt if Red Tractor would take the lead on this matter. But there would be no harm at all in Bord Bia asking the pertinent question.