Irish beef producers are launching their biggest-ever new sales and marketing push this autumn in a bid to increase exports to the UK and Europe. The campaign, which will run until Christmas, was announced this week by agriculture minister Mary Coughlan, who has asked Bord Bia to step up its marketing and promotional efforts "to ensure the maximum possible benefits to the sector". The campaign will be staggered and is not due to get under way in the UK, a key market for the Republic of Ireland's £1bn-a-year beef export industry, until October. It will include in-store promotions, with cookery demonstrations, tasting sessions and recipe calendars. Altogether producers are targeting 39 supermarket groups across 13 EU countries, involving more than 10,000 individual stores. Bord Bia declined to put an overall figure on the cost of the campaign, but it is believed to run into millions of euros. "We expect an enthusiastic response to the sales drive from retailers and consumers," said a Bord Bia spokesman. He insisted that the move was not in response to recent criticism in UK farming circles of the amount of Irish beef being imported, but was a regular feature of Bord Bia's annual marketing plan. "The aim is to consolidate the position of Irish beef in our key markets and thank our customers," he added. "It is a generic campaign that should lift the whole boat." Some have seen the launch of the export campaign as a way of deflecting criticism of the Irish government over Brazilian beef imports. Members of the Irish Farmers' Association recently picketed the European Commission's office in Dublin, calling for a ban on imports. Coughlan, who has taken a similar line, was singled out for special criticism - and offered a Brazilian football jersey.