There ‘may be opportunities to displace Irish beef’ – UK agri minister

There may be “many opportunities for import substitution” in the UK post-Brexit – including opportunities to displace Irish beef from the UK market, according to the UK’s agriculture minister.

George Eustice, Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, made the comments at the Oxford Farming Conference 2019.

Speaking to the attendees at the conference, Eustice said:

There are many opportunities for import substitution and – depending on the type of arrangement that we have with the European Union and others in the future – there may be: opportunities to displace Irish beef from the UK market; opportunities to displace Danish or French dairy products; and opportunities to displace horticulture from the Netherlands.

Continuing, the minister said: “We are already self-sufficient in many sectors such as carrots and peas and many other vegetable sectors.

“We’ve seen huge progress in soft fruit, where we’ve displaced Dutch fruit and where we’ve displaced fruit from the United States in recent years.

“And we’ve also seen progress in other fruit sectors such as top fruit,” Eustice added.

Export ‘opportunities’

Turning to export opportunities, the minister highlighted the offensive export opportunities that may come about in future trade deals.

“In particular there are major opportunities for British dairy in the United States. We already have some great success stories such as OMSCo [The Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative], which exports British organic cheeses to the US and is a major player in that market.

“And the US market in cheeses is underdeveloped – but there is a lot of demand in the premium products that we produce which simply are not produced in the United States.”

The minister highlighted opportunities for lamb in the Middle East as well as the US.

British beef exports

The Far East, according to Eustice, is an “incredibly important opportunity” for beef and lamb, with the minister highlighting Hong Kong as an example.

We already export huge amounts of beef and lamb to Hong Kong. Volumes from Hong Kong grew from 4,000t in 2016 to 7,000t last year in beef alone.

“We’ve already got a memorandum of understanding with China to be able to export beef direct to China.

“We’re in the process at the moment of exchanging questionnaires and seeking inward veterinary inspections so that we can gain access directly to the Chinese market soon.

“Finally, in the last year we’ve also concluded memorandums of understanding with both Japan and with India to begin the process of opening them markets too.”