Breeders must fight to win back export markets
By James Garner
BRITISH livestock breeders must campaign to regain lost export markets and recover sales hit by BSE and foot-and-mouth disease.
The world bovine semen export market is worth $250m (£180m) a year, while the US genetics and livestock market alone is worth $362m (£261m) a year.
A new firm, britishgenetics.com, hopes to revive Britains flagging export business in semen, embryos and eventually live animals by co-ordinating the work of breeding companies and breed societies.
Rob Wills, head of UK Genetics, urged delegates at a National Beef Association export conference to be more enthusiastic about the value of exports and the UKs chance of having them reinstated. "We must look at the situation as an opportunity to start with a clean slate and address issues that might otherwise be put on the back-burner.
"Agriculture has the attention of media, and thus government, and we must act as one. Our case for the re-establishment of the export trade must be made in the strongest terms," he said.
Part of the role of britishgenetics.com will be to lobby government to pressure countries imposing bans on British exports.
It will replace the British Genetics Consortium, which comes to the end of its official life this month having received three years support from the Department of Trade and Industry.
Henry Lewis, head of the Meat and Livestock Commissions export division, said the UK must build on its past. "Great Britains historical record is second to none thanks to our breeder and entrepreneur forebears. Cattle, sheep and pig breeds from Britain have helped populate the livestock world."
Structures should be put in place now to help the industry in the "afterlife" of F&M, he said.
One area the UK must look at is herd health and biosecurity. Mr Wills said the UK had slipped behind other EU countries in this issue. A National Cattle Health Scheme would secure moves to eradicate other cattle diseases, such as IBR, BVD, Leptospirosis, Johnes and BSE and F&M. *
• Valuable trade, worth millions.
• Bans need to be lifted.
• Lobby government.
• Proactive industry stance.
There could be fewer rather than more slaughterhouses after the F&M crisis.