The UK will remain an important market for Irish beef, regardless of Brexit, according to Padraig Brennan, Director of International Markets with Bord Bia.
He said that Bord Bia is looking at what it and Ireland needs to do in light of Brexit.
“Some 37pc of Irish food and drink exports go to the UK. It is not a market that we are going to give up on.”
Speaking in Dubai at Gulfoods, one of the world’s largest food fairs, where 21 Irish companies are showcasing their produce, he said that the shape of a new trading environment with the UK is not known and it will take considerable time for this to emerge.
But, he also said that the more markets and customers there are for Irish food and drink exports the better for producers.
Irish exports to the US in 2016 were worth €950m he said and that was a market that the sector needed.
“We have to find premium product placements for Irish beef. The UK market is one of the highest paying markets in recent years.”
He also said that the UK consumer wants minced beef. “Irish beef is not in the wrong position. Some 60pc of beef consumed in the UK is mince, but we need more niche markets and products into those premium markets.”
According to Brennan, one of the key routes into premium markets has been the Chefs Irish Beef Club, which has seen 89 chefs, mainly in Europe, join this exclusive club that uses and promotes Irish beef.
“How do we get the best price back to farmers? The Chefs Irish Beef Club helps us do that. We are in a very competitive market when it comes to beef and our unique selling point is our grassfed beef, which comes from family farms with a high level of quality assurance.”
To date almost 90 chefs, most of which have Michelin stars, are signed up members of the club.
To have top quality, world renowned chefs use Irish beef, he said, helps build the image of Irish beef, develop its reputation and increases positive publicity.
“This then filters down into mainstream cooking.”
The chefs, Brennan said, are not remunerated and most are already using Irish beef. “Chefs are media magnets, so if we hold an event with a high profile chef who uses Irish beef, they naturally talk about Irish beef.”
Coupled with this, Bord Bia exhibits at 24 trade events around the world, including Gulfood this week.
Last year Bord Bia facilitated 13 Irish companies exhibit at the fair and this year it has rented space in two of the halls where footfall is expected to be in the region of 100,000 people.
Irish exporters are vying to stand out from the crowd – around 5,000 other exhibitors will be there – to promote Irish food and drink in the World Food Hall and the Dairy Hall.
According to Brennan, the show is an opportunity to increase Irish exports from €250m.
Half of the growth experienced by Irish food and drink exports last year was in international markets such as the Middle East.