Why have the UK authorities left it so late to work on the
relaunching of UK beef in Europe, asks Nicholas Lunt, executive director
of Brussels-based EurO&M.
It was a gift to the tabloids, but the German government’s decision to
ignore the EC’s ending of the ban on UK beef exports was more than just
another opportunity for the tabloids to bash the boche.
The repercussions for the UK beef industry are as life threatening as
the currently under-worked British abattoirs once were. So far, France
has followed Germany’s line and others may well follow.
Even if the Germans are forced to change their stance by the EC, this
was not the news the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) wanted to hear
at the beginning of its relaunch campaign which started last week with
UK-wide barbecues and other meaty events.
While Germany has never been a major market for the UK’s former pounds
520 million per annum beef export industry, the impact on UK beef
exports to other countries is bound to be negative. So what has the MLC
been doing to tenderise continental opinions in the months leading up to
the lifting of the ban? Not an awful lot, it would seem.
Money has certainly been spent in the UK in the past weeks - including
getting the Prince of Wales to host journalists on a tour of a farm and
an abattoir. However, the first big politically-backed event targeting
the UK’s EU partners will be a reception at the British Embassy in
Paris, hosted by Nick Brown, Minister of Agriculture, on 2 September.
Why so little so late?
My contacts in the European beef industry cannot believe that the UK
hasn’t been more aggressive in preparing the ground for the
Everyone knows how good UK beef can be. In fact it had joined that
select band of high quality UK products - malt whisky, salmon and grouse
- which command top prices because they are very good and because they
Surely this was the moment for a pan-European, Government backed
campaign - possibly along the lines of the ’Best of British’. Because
the brand under threat here is Britain, not beef. It is the UK
authorities - health; agricultural; veterinary - that are distrusted,
not the poor cattle.
The Government that launched Cool Britannia should surely have seen the
threat and the opportunity. Let’s hope for the UK’s beleaguered farmers
that they act now - colleagues in Germany are desperate for a good
Aberdeen Angus steak.