6 June 1997

Gene promotion firm to back UK livestock breeder exports

By Tony McDougal

UK livestock breeders are to have their own independent promotional genetics company to boost exports of semen, embryos and stock.

Genexco will be launched later this year after confirmation this week that the Meat and Livestock Commission has been awarded £245,000 from the Department of Trade and Industrys sector challenge initiative.

It is one of three projects totalling £700,000 which have been won by the MLC to help the meat and livestock industry improve its competitiveness. At least a dozen firms have given support to the idea of a promotional genetics company which will provide market research and intelligence and establish links with importing countries but will not trade itself.

The announcement comes at the same time as the US has recommenced importing bull semen from the UK for the first time since the BSE export ban came into force in March 1996.

Martin Palmer, MLC industry strategy manager, said the cash boost and the setting up of the new company would enhance existing resources and leave the MLC more time and resources to concentrate on promoting British meat.

Dr Palmer added that an all-embracing marketing company would help smaller export firms which did not have the budget to spend on promotion.

Rob Wills, UK Genetics director, said the DTI cash had come as nations were again happy to import UK beef semen. "We are finally making progress, hearing in the past week that South Africa and America are taking bovine semen exports. Customers need and want our beef genetics and there is huge potential out there. A shipment of 1000 South Devon semen straws was sent out to Canada a month ago, and this has been followed up by 700 straws to America, the first for 15 months."

The second project aims to improve business performance in auction markets through the introduction of computer systems, involving the Livestock Auctioneers Association.

It comes as the industry is developing a national animal database and improving traceability.

Stephen Rossides, NFU head of livestock, welcomed the support for livestock markets. "There is a view in some quarters that auction marts are old-fashioned and cumbersome, but we do not take that view."

He added that NFU officials would be meeting the LAA and MAFFs consultants PA Consulting over the role marts could play in improving traceability efficiency. &#42