According to the Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) for Northern Ireland, French beef output has declined by around 11% over the last decade.

This has been brought about by two main drivers: A decline in suckler cow numbers, which for the five-year period 2016-2021 contracted by over 9%; and a corresponding fall-off in dairy cow numbers in the region of 7% during the same period.

LMC’s chief executive Ian Stevenson told Agriland: “It looks as if this contraction in overall cattle numbers has continued into 2022.

“These changes have been brought about by a combination of factors. They include a reduction in the overall profitability of French livestock production and an aging farmer population.

“France has always been a strong market for both beef and lamb, produced here in Northern Ireland,” he added.

“And given the changes now taking place within that country’s red meat sector, the opportunity for locally produced red meat to build on its existing presence in France seems very positive.

“While overall cow numbers in France have declined, the good news is that French consumers continue to enjoy high quality beef and lamb in their diets.”

SIAL focus on beef output

Stevenson attended the 2022 SIAL Food Fair, held in Paris. The event rotates on an annual basis with Cologne’s ANUGA event, in providing a key focus for the global food and drink sectors.   

SIAL 2020 did not happen because of the Covid-19 pandemic. So, the return of the event to Paris, following a four-year absence, created a positive atmosphere in the French capital over a five-day period.

SIAL 2022 attracted 7,200 food exhibitors from around the world with over 310,000 food and drink industry professionals taking in the event.

“SIAL is a truly global gathering, which showcases the food and drink industry and its products to customers and potential customers from every part of the world,” Stevenson continued.

“Food fairs like this are a key part of developing new and cementing exiting business relationships.”

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) hosted a major ‘Quality Meat from Britain’ showcase at SIAL in Paris.

At its heart was the involvement of 11 UK beef, lamb and pork exporting businesses.  Some of these businesses have major processing facilities in Northern Ireland, including the Foyle Food Group.

“Companies using this dedicated space had the opportunity to meet international buyers while also enabling them to sample excellent quality UK beef lamb and pork, which was being prepared and served on the stand,” Stevenson said.

“LMC works in partnership with AHDB and other UK levy bodies to open new market access opportunities for UK exporters.

“SIAL provides LMC with an opportunity to liaise closely with other levy-funded bodies from across the UK, Ireland and farther afield on key issues and developments relating to the global meat and wider food industry sectors.”