Bumper year for EU butter exports

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

By Kat Jack

EU-28 exports of butter* products increased by 35% year on year in 2019, at 214k tonnes. The majority of the uplift occurred in the latter half of the year. In value terms, EU butter exports were worth just under £1bn in 2019, up 21% on 2018. With wholesale prices for butter falling through the year, value growth was restricted compared to volume growth.

The key growth destinations for EU butter products included Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and the US. Turkey imported 11k tonnes, more than five times the amount the EU sent the previous year. The UAE imported 12k tonnes, up 140% on 2018. A little under 8k tonnes was exported to Egypt, more than four times the amount sent in 2018. These three countries, together with the US, accounted for half of the additional EU butter exported in 2019 compared with 2018. 

The US accounted for 17% of the EU’s butter exports in 2019, up by 7k tonnes on the previous year.  The majority of this uplift occurred between April-July, following the announcement of potential tariffs of 25% as part of the Airbus trade dispute. These tariffs were then made official in late October 2019, after which exports fell on year earlier levels.

The top three butter exporters of the EU are Ireland, France and the Netherlands, who together make up around 60% of the EU’s butter exports. Ireland saw especially strong growth in 2019, exporting 63% (20k tonnes) more butter products than in 2019. 

UK butter exports up 11%

UK butter exports to all countries (including other EU countries) totalled 69.3k tonnes in 2019, up 11% on 2018. Exports to non-EU countries were up 83%, but at 7.6k tonnes this is a small proportion of total exports. The UK also benefitted from increased exports to the US, with 1.4k tonnes exported in 2019 – up 1.0k tonnes (259%) on 2018. Exports to EU countries were up 6% (3.5k tonnes). The EU remains the UK’s main butter export destination, with 89% of 2019 exports going there.

*Please note that the 'butter' here refers to the trade category 0405 which also includes butteroil, spreadable butter and dairy spreads.

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Katherine Jack

Environment Senior Analyst

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