As this year draws to a close, it is not uncommon to start thinking about the New Year ahead – with resolutions and plans no-doubt being made – many which will be kept, some which will no doubt fall at the first hurdle. But it is important too, to use this time as an opportunity to look back and reflect on the year that is coming to an end.
That is exactly what EBLEX director, Nick Allen, has been doing recently. Nick spoke to EBLEX TV about the highs and lows of 2014, and offered an insight into what the industry can expect in 2015.
His first high point of this year was the work done on the export markets and the progress made. Hong Kong is now the second largest importer of English lamb (France is the largest), and headway is still being made on the Chinese Market (although it is not a quick process and could take a number of years). Opening up access with China would have a huge beneficial impact for English producers for two reasons.
The first is the sheer number of people living in the country, with 1.4billion in 2013 - and that figure is still growing. Not only is the population expanding, but so is the average individual wealth, meaning there are more middle-class families and budgets that can be choosy about their food, and as grass-fed English beef and lamb is seen as a quality product, it means that the appeal for our product is there. The second reason is that Chinese consumers waste very little of the carcase, so there is a financial value placed on some of the parts that would perhaps end up as waste product in the UK.
To put the Chinese appetite for meat into context, they consume 1.7million pigs every single day.
To continue the work of getting market access to China, the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) have announced that they will be funding a full-time post for someone to be based in Beijing.
Nick also mentioned that some of the new initiatives launched by EBLEX in 2014 as highlights. The Better Returns Programme launched their teleconferences, which allow farmers to phone in at a set time from their farm office, kitchen or tractor and hear from industry experts. In case you missed them, the teleconferences from 2014 are available to listen again.
Market volatility. Two words which producers will be familiar with after this year, and unfortunately, they are words which are not going away. According to Nick, in order to prepare for the challenges that the industry presents, it is important to plan for businesses over three to five years rather than year-on-year.
Looking forwards, market intelligence suggests that beef will be in tighter supply next year, which could see prices moving the right way for farmers. As always, cautious optimism is called for, but it is a good place to start 2015.