Kit Davies, Paris
The Scottish and Welsh drove the revival of British meat exports hard this week at France's showcase food show.
Quality Meat Scotland and Welsh Lamb & Beef Promotions were buoyed up by a positive response from visitors to the 40th Salon International de l'Agriculture. France is Welsh lamb's biggest export sector, a £40m market before FMD.
WL&BP was pushing its half lamb in a box from HM Bennett.
Promotions and marketing executive Michael Rees Thomas said Welsh lamb was clawing back what it had lost.
"Nationalistic elements apart, the French like our product and seem to want it back. They appreciate our green grass message. This will be a growing market for us. This is a consumer-focused show but Carrefour and Auchan are here and they like to see us here," said Rees Thomas. Welsh beef exports have not recommenced yet but Rees Thomas said the PGI award had been much praised. A PGI for Welsh lamb is in the course of being awarded.
A test marketing exercise in the south of France has boosted hopes of establishing Scotch lamb as the preferred imported product for French consumers. The Fleur d' Ecosse brand was piloted in 12 stores before Christmas with a good response.
QMS is now placing emphasis on the Specially Selected Scotch brand as it targets the French supermarkets. Until recently the majority of Scotch lamb exports ­ a £60m market before FMD ­ have been in carcase form and so not subsequently identified as Scottish. QMS export manager Margaret Stewart said: "The French will go for their own lamb first, so our aim is to position Scotch lamb as the preferred imported product.
"Some 30% of Scotch lamb goes to the French market and there is no doubt our PGI status gives us an advantage."
Scottish beef exports are on hold in any case until such time as changes can be made to the date-based export scheme so that overseas sales become economically viable, said QMS.
Along with his Welsh counterparts on the stand, QMS MD Alasdair Muir said he was very impressed by the way the French producers engaged with consumers, turning the show into a day out for the family by using the animals as attractions and entertainment. "In Britain meat comes from supermarkets but in France meat comes from animals."