Posted: 20/10/2017

Weak pound helps Scottish quintet strike French export deal

Tricia Bey’s Barwheys Cheese is one of five on its way to French wholesaler Desailly

French wholesaler Desailly agreed a deal to list five Scottish cheeses last month – further proof that the fall in the value of the pound is opening up new export markets for the UK’s artisan cheesemakers.

The company, which is one of France’s largest cheese wholesalers, launched the range at Rungis market in September with a tasting event for chefs and retailers.

The line-up is St Andrews farmhouse cheddar, Orkney smoked cheddar, Applesmoke waxed cheddar truckle, Barwheys cheese and Connage smoked Dunlop.

The deal is the latest in a series of export successes for small British cheesemakers, which are benefiting from a 15% fall in the pound since Brexit.

“The currency situation has definitely opened doors for us,” said Allan Currie, MD of Penicuik-based distributor Clarks Foods, which exports the cheese from Scotland. “This kind of deal is doable now, when it wasn’t before because products were just too expensive.”

According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the value of British cheese exports grew by 25% in the first half of 2017, helped by several industry initiatives. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has promoted artisan British cheeses, such as Quickes cheddar, Bath soft cheese and Cropwell Bishop Stilton, through trade missions in Hong Kong, New Delhi and Paris. The Scottish government has also been working to boost cheese exports through its Scottish Dairy Growth Board and Scottish Development International.

Clarks began working with the agencies last year, culminating in the deal with Desailly, which began with a 350kg order.

“Exports are an interesting market for us and one we think has potential,” said Currie. “We can be flexible and offer mixed pallets, which gives us an advantage over bigger players. It could be an important market for artisan producers.”

At Barwheys Dairy, which produces around 12 tonnes of raw milk cheddar-style cheese a year, owner Tricia Bey said that she was optimistic that exports to France would grow.

“If you pick the cheeses France doesn’t have, then our territorials fit in quite well,” she said. “Exporting is hard as an individual artisanal cheesemaker, but it’s easier when you are part of a complete Scottish cheeseboard through an aggregator like Clarks. Scottish food has a good reputation abroad thanks to things like whisky and smoked salmon. It’s seen as healthy and natural, and cheese fits nicely with that.”

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