Belgian farmers have suffered "painful price drops" due to the loss of the Russian market, according to Belgian Meat Office marketing officer Joris Coenen, who spoke to GlobalMeatNews at the Sial food exhibition in Paris.
He said: "Everyone was hoping Russia would open up soon, but it hasn’t and now the freezers are full."
To counter the damage, Belgium is looking for new markets, but, as Coenen put it: "We are not the only ones, everyone is looking for the same thing." The country’s meat office has therefore carried out thorough market research and come up with a three-year plan to help its exports around the globe.
The plan will utilise money freed up by the European Commission for promotion, and will focus mainly on Asia. Coenen said there was a programme of exhibitions, business meetings, events and trips organised, working with representatives from China and south-east Asia.
Sial was used as a litmus test for the plan, he explained. Through its dealings at the show, the Belgian Meat Office has been able to assess whether it is heading in the right direction or not. Coenen concluded: "It seems spot on; the show has helped us to see that we are not going to change much."
Belgium is a major player in global pig meat exports, said Coenen: "Pig meat turnover is €1.6 billion; if you look at the figures, we export more pig meat than Brazil." He added that Belgium has a unique selling point – its ‘tailor-made’ service: "If you ask people the reason why they buy from Belgium, the answer is: ‘If I ask for something, they will do it for us; they know about meat and how their producers will fit in with us.’ That’s our image and that’s what they say about us. We compete by knowing exactly what our clients want from us; our service is as important as the product."