Did coronavirus impact UK dairy trade?

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

By Kat Jack

Please note that some of the information in this article has been corrected as of 7 October 2020. Please see the end of the article for more information.

The coronavirus pandemic has inevitably had an impact on global trade, with IHS Markit dubbing April-June 2020 “the worst quarter in trade on record”.  On a global level, it notes shipments to and from multiple key trading nations were down significantly on the year. But how did UK dairy trade perform?

Cheeses and powders drive lower dairy imports

UK imports of dairy products (excluding liquid milk and cream) totalled 616.5k tonnes in Jan-Jul 2020, down 8% on 2019 and down 7% on the 3-year average (2017-2019). There has been some uplift in recent months, with June imports up on the year and July in line with a year previous. This is likely tied to the return of some foodservice demand as restrictions started to ease.

The reduced imports so far this year (Jan–Jul) were mainly driven by cheeses and whey products, with tonnages down 11% and 25% on the year respectively. However, all product categories except fermented products (e.g. yoghurts) were down on the year.†

UK dairy product exports up on 3-year average

Exports of UK dairy products (excluding liquid milk and cream) totalled 330.8k tonnes for Jan-Jul 2020, down 8% on the same period in 2019, but up 6% on the 3-year average (2017-2019). The year-on-year volume losses came predominantly from lower exports of cheeses and powders and concentrates. However, similarly to imports, export volumes were down for all the product categories except fermented dairy products.†

† Please note that the information regarding specific categories has been changed as of 7 October 2020, as the previous version was found to be incorrect. Information regarding total dairy trade is correct and unchanged.


Image of staff member Katherine Jack

Katherine Jack

Analyst - Dairy

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