British beef exports have shrugged off the heatwave to put in a strong EU performance, according to the first official figures since exports resumed.

The statistics published by the Meat and Livestock Commission only cover the year to May - the month when beef export restrictions were lifted.

But exporters have filled in the gaps for June and July and indicate that the UK is on track to hit its target of shipping 30,000 tonnes by December.

It comes at the same time as a breakthrough in the Cypriot market, where supermarket chain Carrefour will list English bull beef on promotion for the first time in the country's history, according to Jean-Pierre Garnier, the MLC's export director.

"We are now in discussion with a number of other European supermarket chains and are expecting more good news from them over the next few months.

"There is a strong market for young bull beef in Italy, for both the retail and foodservice markets. And although France had a slow start, trade is strong now, particularly for hotels and restaurants."

Beef and veal exports to the EU amounted to almost 5,800 tonnes by the start of June compared with 3,500 tonnes over the same period in 2005.

But almost half that tally was notched up in May alone, and industry sources suggest that British producers are now sending more than 1,000 tonnes a week overseas, the majority to customers in the Netherlands and Germany.

Adam Muggoch, Scotbeef director, said that Belgium, Holland and Italy were hungry for prime beef. "May was a good start and June was even better, but we are expecting another upturn at the end of this month."

About 45% of the meat exported in May was cow beef, according to Duff Burrell, NBA chairman, and offal made up about 15%.

"That's great news as there's little, if any, demand for it in the UK and it adds value to the carcase. There is a shortage of beef in Europe, and exports are certainly putting a bottom in the domestic market."