BLOG: The world of pork exports during a global pandemic

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Despite the challenges of the past 12 months, UK pig meat exports have continued to provide a key outlet for the pork sector. In his blog, Jonathan Eckley, Head of Asia Pacific, explains how the export market has remained key during the pandemic and the importance of the digital world.

Data for 2020 shows total UK exports were 6% up on the year, breaking through the 400,000-tonne mark for the first time in recent history, and valued at an incredible £654 million. Despite these impressive figures, international trading conditions became more complex as the year progressed. Increased availability, both close to home within the EU and further afield, had a direct impact on the prevailing global trading dynamic. The global pandemic impacted the supply chain here in the UK and slowed global logistics, which applied additional pressure to the sector.

Export remains core pillar of activity

Nonetheless, our export market remains crucial and continues to be a core pillar of our activity at AHDB, from looking for new opportunities and working with the industry and government to open new markets, to developing existing high-volume markets and promoting quality pork from Britain to discerning consumers in a number of high-value global markets.

Restrictions have had a huge impact on my, and the other members of AHDB’s export team’s, activity over the past year. The first event to be postponed was a show in the Far East, where the team was due to lead nine UK exporters to market. Similar events, strategic trade fairs and exporter missions to new and potential markets fell one by one, like a pack of dominos, in the following weeks.

In-market agencies provide valuable support

Fortunately, we were in the final stages of appointing a number of in-market agencies to support our work from the UK in adding value to the UK pork sector. Having these agencies secured and operational in our strategic markets in Asia and North America was vital, as we shifted our activity into the digital world. This helped to maintain momentum and strengthen the UK’s reputation as a supplier of safe, high-quality pig meat products.

In markets where restrictions have eased and gatherings are permitted, and with our agencies’ support, we have been able to host tasting events, bringing together key market participants to experience our great-tasting pork. We have also taken the UK to these events virtually, to promote how our producers and processors combine to deliver such a fantastic product to market. Trade shows have historically been a vital platform for exporters to meet a large number of potential clients and these virtual events have enabled us to continue this activity.

Virtual trade event, Tokyo 2020

Online butchery and promotional events

Despite many cancellations, several shows have been able to run since last autumn. AHDB pavilions provided a vital platform for our exporters’ in-market teams and were able to fly the flag for the British pork sector at an important time. In other markets, where restrictions have prevented face-to-face gatherings, all activity has taken place digitally. In North America, for example, online butchery and product promotional events included virtual meeting rooms to facilitate business-to-business introductions.

Shanghai Global Food Trade Show (FHC), 2020

As we enter the new financial year, international market development will be vital in keeping the UK pork sector at the forefront of international buyers’ minds. Even when the world emerges from the pandemic and face-to-face meetings and on-the-ground events are in full flow again, digital marketing will continue to play a prominent role, adding value to our campaigns.

Find out more about red meat export activity

Canadians sample UK pork at AHDB virtual tasting event

Red meat and dairy showcased in China

Image of staff member Jonathan Eckley

Jonathan Eckley

Head of Asia Pacific (Livestock)

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