February sheep meat trade sees growth on the month

Friday, 21 April 2023


Total volumes of sheep meat imports saw large month-on-month (MOM) increases in February, growing by 52% (1,200t) to 3,600t. Imports from New Zealand accounted for the majority of this MOM increase, growing by 144% (1,200t) over this period to 2,000 tonnes. Increasing volumes of frozen products imported from New Zealand, specifically sheep legs (+367%, 950t) and boneless lamb (+181%, 230t), was the main driver for this.

Meanwhile the year-on-year (YOY) change saw the opposite trend, with total imports decreasing by 24% (1,100t) which was driven by a 59% drop (-800t) in sheep meat imports from Ireland. Imports from Australia also added to this YOY decrease as they continued the YOY declines seen since August, falling by 28% (-300t) in February.

Looking at sheep meat products in detail, the YOY decrease in February resulted from large declines in imports of frozen boneless lamb (-27%, 300t), frozen bone-in sheep meat (-58%, 300t) and fresh boneless sheep meat (-75%, 500t). Nevertheless, these declines were limited by the large increase in imports of frozen sheep legs (+57%, 500t), specifically from New Zealand.

Graph showing UK sheep meat imports


Moving on to exports, February’s trade figures followed seasonal trends as volumes exported were up 5% MOM (300t) at 6,300t. Increased exports across the Irish Sea to Ireland (+21%, 120t) and further afield to Hong Kong (+438%, 130t) accounted for much of this increase compared to January. The increasing volumes to Hong Kong may be a result of a recovering demand following the relaxation of COVID restrictions.

Yet, exports in February were marginally down YOY (by 2%, 110t) as decreases in exports to EU destinations, particularly France (-5%, -140t) and Belgium (-23%, -160t), were only partially offset by the recent increase in exports to Hong Kong. Despite this overall YOY decline, exports were up 6% (340t) compared to the 5-year average, with increasing volumes going to France (+14%, 340t). For more information on how UK exports to the EU may progress in the coming months, click this link.

With regards to sheep meat products, fresh lamb carcases continue to drive the majority of exports, contributing 77% of total volumes in February. However, this product saw minimal change in exports MOM and YOY. The MOM increases were driven by increasing exports of other products, such as frozen boneless lamb (+97%, 100t), which make up a smaller proportion of exports. A similar story was also seen YOY, however growth in frozen boneless lamb was outweighed by lower exports of frozen bone-in sheep and fresh sheep carcases.

Graph showing UK sheep meat exports

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