Dutch consumers will be among the first to tuck into British beef on the Continent after a deal was signed with foodservice company Ven International this week. The £3m a year deal, signed at the Amsterdam catering fair, was brokered by Food from Britain and Welsh Lamb and Beef Promotions, and announced by Christine Gwyther, agriculture secretary in the Welsh assembly. A similar export deal to Italy is expected to follow. The value of the export deal is small, and aimed at catering businesses not retailers, but marks a significant step in the fight to return British beef to supermarket shelves on the Continent. The projected annual volume of a few hundred tonnes is negligible against pre-ban total exports of well over 200,000 tonnes. Smaller slaughterers have been buoyed by the fact even modest overseas sales should give them leverage against the multiple supermarket chains, however. "We are trapped. If we don't deal on the supermarkets' terms we have nowhere else to go," said a leading Scottish wholesaler. Slaughtering company St Merryn Meats, one of only two abbattoirs to be able to handle meat for export, has secured the processing deal. Up to seven tonnes of beef will be exported every week and will be labelled with the Welsh Beef Brand. John Dracup, procurement and traceability manager at St Merryn's, said: "This deal has reestablished a traditional Welsh market for the first time since the beef ban and is the first regular sustainable order to come out of Europe." The FFB and Welsh Lamb and Beef Promotions have been trying to kickstart the beef export business for the past 18 months. {{NEWS }}