The UK hopes it can finalise a deal that would lift restrictions in Russia on its beef exports, food secretary Owen Paterson has told just-food.
Paterson, UK Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, said the countries could announce a new trade agreement on beef at next week’s World Food Moscow trade show in the Russian capital.
Until now, UK exports of offal have not been allowed into Russia despite the country lifting its ban on the products last year.
“We hope while we are there to finalise and announce a deal opening up the whole Russian market to British beef and lamb,” Paterson told just-food in an interview this week.
“Because that will be both prime cuts and offal, [it] could lead to a trade in up to GBP100m in exports in the next three years. We are pretty sure we are there. Our veterinarians and officials have been working very closely with the Russians for years now. It’s a real opportunity to open into a huge and expanding market.”
Paterson is looking to help promote UK food producers at next week’s event in Moscow. The UK exports more goods to Ireland than to the BRIC markets combined but the Government has embarked on a series of initiatives to try to improve the presence of British businesses in these key emerging markets.
“Russia is very important, we are taking the largest food and drink delegation for many years and they’re right across piece,” Paterson said. “Russia as an increasingly wealthy nation, there is real interest in Western clothes, media and tastes and Britain, British food and British products are of real, iconic interest to them. I’m pretty positive.”
According to data issued by The Food and Drink Federation in March, exports of UK food and soft drinks to Russia fell 12% last year to GBP92m. None of the BRIC markets were in the UK food and soft drink sector’s top 20 markets by export sales.
There have been indications Russia’s government has been actively looking to help boost domestic production of food like meat and dairy, which could present stiff competition to overseas companies looking to crack the market.
Paterson, however, is sanguine about that prospect. “In all these countries you are always going to be competing with local producers. If you’ve got the advantages we have of quality, the reputation of reliability – we’ve got very rigorous livestock movement tracking systems now – well-respected production systems in our factories and a very high-quality raw material, those are big advantages over domestic producers.”
Check back later for further coverage of just-food’s interview with Paterson.