The value of UK beef and lamb exports increased by 30% on last year to £200m during the first half of 2008, according to latest figures from EBLEX.

Lamb exports, which accounted for around 30% of UK production, increased by 20% to £116.2m – the highest since before the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, EBLEX economist Mark Topliff said.

Beef exports also increased, with some 35,000t exported in the first half of 2008, worth around £90m – 35% up on the same time last year.

“The weak pound against the euro has made exports quite competitive and has certainly been one factor in the strong first half of this year,” Mr Topliff said.

“On the beef side, we’ve also seen increasing availability of cull cows, which account for about 75% of beef exports. Buyer confidence has also been steadily improving since BSE restrictions were lifted and we’re still on the road to recovery.”

For lamb, Mr Topliff said that alongside the favourable exchange rate, declining flocks in Ireland and France, plus fewer imports from New Zealand had also helped UK export demand.

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2008, he was cautiously optimistic: “The indications are that the pound will remain weak, which should help our position.

“Also, there’s unlikely to be any increase in volumes coming from Ireland, France and New Zealand, whereas most of our lamb and beef tends to come to the market during the second half of the year.

“There is a shortage of manufacturing beef in Europe, and UK cull cow beef helps fill that gap,” he added. “Prospects for the rest of the year are reasonable.”