Farmers are welcoming news that the European Union has agreed to accept an annual quota of New Zealand grain-fed beef, which will quadruple our beef exports to the continent.
Trade minister Tim Groser yesterday said New Zealand had been approved to join a list of countries able to access an annual tariff-free quota of 20,000 tonnes tariff-free, going up to 45,000 tonnes in 2012.
Federated Farmers says the EU currently takes about 11,000 tonnes, or three percent of our beef exports.
Its meat and fibre chairperson, Jeannette Maxwell, says the challenge is now to fill that quota.
"It means a joined up approach from the paddock to the consumer’s plate positioning New Zealand grain-fed beef as the European consumer’s preference,” she says.
“It’s an encouraging sign that despite the US debt crisis amidst the EU’s own sovereign debt issues, that the logic and opportunity for free trade is still there."
Groser says the additional access is very welcome and will allow Kiwi exporters to offer a wider product range.
“New Zealand has acquired in more recent years a well-deserved reputation for high quality pasture-fed and grain-finished beef. It is important that industry is able to pursue all avenues to access high-value markets and to promote growth in this sector,” Groser says.
“From my discussions with New Zealand companies it is clear that we can be competitive in the higher-priced high quality area, not just manufacturing beef which traditionally has gone to the North American market."
According to Maxwell, our feedlot beef is predominantly consigned to Japan, a market that specifies black beef cattle only—of which there is a shortage.
The EU deal widens the range of species that can be exported and will increase profit, she says.
"Opening up Europe to grain-fed beef helps to diversify our export markets and that reduces the risk on us as farmers.
“It’s not just a beef opportunity, but becomes an arable one as well. All things being equal, there should be market opportunities locally to supply grain to the feedlots."