South American problems bode well for UK beef

UK beef producers should not fear imports from Argentina and Brazil – and could even learn from their South American counterparts.

Jilly Greed, a beef farmer from Fortescue Farm, Thorverton, Devon, went on Tesco’s recent fact- finding tour of Argentina and Brazil (Business, 17 February), and came back thoroughly reassured.

“It was a complete eye opener.

What I saw out there was very impressive, but it was precarious as well.”

Both countries’ export markets to Europe were closed due to foot-and-mouth outbreaks, and British producers should seize that chance, she said.

“Our export market is opening up while theirs are shut down; the European market is short of beef, and we are competitively priced.”

Mrs Greed said she was reassured that the sheer distance and fragility of the Argentinean and Brazilian industries should ensure good support for British beef for many years to come.

“There are problems with diseases like foot-and-mouth, and their biosecurity is not good.

There is also great pressure on land for energy crops in Brazil and soya in Argentina.”

But animal welfare in the farms and abattoirs visited was extremely good, and the UK industry could learn from the open supply chain partnerships and excellent consistency in carcass grades, Mrs Greed said.

A lot of effort was also going into zebu cross-breeding to improve eating quality, she added.

“But they are in awe of what we do here.

We have a hugely respected beef industry and I think we have lost sight of that.”

But British producers would never compete with South American beef on price alone, so had to differentiate their product and aim for the top end of the market.

Processors and retailers needed to take costs and waste out of their part of the supply chain, and better branding and marketing was essential, she added.

“But I now feel really optimistic about beef production in this country.

I wouldn’t have missed the trip for the world, it has dispelled a few myths and given me enormous confidence.”