Sterling gives meat firms an edge with French buyers

European sales executives from six local beef and lamb processors are now following up new business leads in France made during an Invest Northern Ireland organised visit to Belfast by top retail and foodservice buyers from Paris during the week.

The value of sterling against the euro has given Northern Ireland companies a much sharper competitive edge, according to Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food director. “As well as quality, innovation and, of course, the total traceability of our beef and lamb, the buyers were quick to spot that the current value of sterling makes Northern Ireland meat exceptionally good value.

“It’s clear from feedback that we received from the French delegation that the buyers are keen to increase business with existing local suppliers and to develop new sources of quality and richly flavoured meat in Northern Ireland.

“Our programme of ‘meet the buyer’ events is proving to be immensely successful. Over the past 18 months we’ve organised buying missions from Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. We anticipate contracts either already signed or under negotiation to be around £25 million.

“We are very confident that good business will result from this visit by the French delegation. We’ll also be talking to the local industry about further initiatives to strengthen relationships forged during the two-day trip.

“Our support reflects Invest NI’s commitment to key points in the Red Meat Strategy report including the need to help the industry win new business in Europe and further afield,” he added.

Beef and lamb is one of Northern Ireland’s strategically important industries that’s currently worth more than £500 million annually and employing around 3,000 people at processing plants across Northern Ireland.

Six local companies – ABP, Newry; Doherty and Gray, Ballymena; Dunbia, Dungannon; Foyle Food Group, Londonderry and Omagh; Linden Foods, Dungannon; and Tenderlean, Derrylin – had an opportunity to pitch for new business during the two-day buying mission from France.

The nine strong French group included senior red meat buyers from Carrefour, Europe’s biggest retailer; Brakes, a leader in foodservices; Elior, the second largest catering supplier; and La Grande Epicerie de Paris, a major supplier of premium meat.

The visit included one-to-one discussions between Northern Ireland companies and buyers and then visits to the local plants. They also had an opportunity to see local meat on show at one of Northern Ireland’s leading supermarkets.