LONG-TERM Swiss lamb importer GVFI has called upon farmers to ensure a continuous year-round supply of stock to WA¹s main lamb exporter, WAMMCO International.
GVFI marketing manager Sam Sprunger told farmers that despite seasonal lamb production they still needed the best quality lamb for their chilled markets 52 weeks of the year.
The most important periods were Easter, Christmas and the barbeque season from May to August.
They have bought lamb from New Zealand and the UK, managing their procurement according to each region²s season throughout the year.
WAMMCO was one of the companies that supplied GVFI every week of the year, and although the parcels were small at times WAMMCO preferred to receive some product that none.
He said Switzerland was not WAMMCO²s biggest market in volume, but it took mainly value-added boneless cuts of high value.
In 2004 it imported 1220 tons of boneless shortloins which was equivalent to 2.5 million lambs.
Mr Sprunger said because Switzerland²s flexible quota system for quantity and country of origin was different from the EU²s fixed quotas, there was potential to further expand the Swiss market for Australian lamb.
GVFI is more than 100 years old and imports livestock from all over the world.
However Europeans have become sensitive about long-distance travel for animals and the Cormo Express helped to worsen the already bad image.
Consequently, GVFI preferred to buy their meat from partners who sourced stock from their own region.
³Natural breeding and true to type keeping of animals, animal welfare, good processing principles, protection of the environment and the absence of any type of growth promoters are of highest importance,² Mr Sprunger said.
³These are only some of the reasons why we are not shy to travel to various agricultural markets around the world and control those requirements personally.²
After gold, lamb was the second biggest trade product from Australia to Switzerland, valued at about $50 million.
GVFI liked Australian lamb for its regular quality, size and colour.
³Because we import only the best quality lamb and airfreight it as fresh as possible with its natural flavour, Switzerland has a reputation of having the best lamb in the world,² Mr Sprunger said.
³Others freeze the meat or are not quite as aware of the quality.
Mr Sprunger was accompanied by Bell Group purchasing and sale manager Paul Farhni on his Australian and New Zealand visit recently to learn more about lamb production and implement his impression back home.
Bell Group was GVFI²s biggest meat processor and distributor in Switzerland, and was the largest of 200 shareholders in GVFI.
Bell supplied Coop, one of two main supermarket chains, McDonald²s Switzerland, and produced a wide range of convenience food.
It had big investments in modern slaughtering and processing facilities for all species.
GVFI had it best year ever in 2004, turning over $232 million.
Beef consumption was back to normal after problems with mad cow disease and foot and mouth disease in the UK and South America.
Pork and beef were the major meats imported into Switzerland respectively accounting for 8200t and 6700t.
Lamb was third at 4800t, ahead of poultry (4200t), venison (800t) and horsemeat (700t).
Lamb consumption has weakened recently because of the high price, which made it the most expensive red meat to buy in the shops in Europe.
Mr Sprunger hoped that better production conditions might lead to a turnaround on price.
Mr Sprunger said the Australian lamb industry had made good progress, but as lambs became bigger the size of the legs were becoming a problem.
However, GVFI has introduced a new specification called Swiss cut leg for two to four people households, and it hoped WAMMCO could soon start supplying the new cut.