Wednesday, 4 November 2020
By Kat Jack
The end of the Brexit transition period is looming ever closer, and at the time of writing our trade status is still uncertain. If a worst case scenario completely disrupts trade, could the UK supply its own cheese market? By looking at production, imports and exports, we can estimate our self-sufficiency.
Overall, the UK is 58% self-sufficient in total cheese production. This figure has been relatively steady over the last three years (2017-2019). However, there are of course many varieties of cheese, and the self-sufficiency for each will vary. While we cannot compare them all, we will look at two of the more prominent varieties: Cheddar and Mozzarella.
High self-sufficiency in Cheddar
For Cheddar, the picture is relatively strong, as estimates indicate we have been around 94% self-sufficient over the last three years. There has been a slight decline in self-sufficiency over that period, from 95% in 2017 to 92% in 2019. Although production was similar in both years, imports rose*. However, in 2019 we did see uplifts in imports in advance of the March and October Brexit deadlines, as people sought to secure and store stock ahead of a potential hard Brexit. This may have driven the boost in imports in 2019. Exports did also rise in 2019, but to a lesser extent.
Growing self-sufficiency in Mozzarella
For Mozzarella, the UK has grown in self-sufficiency over the last few years, as production capacity has been expanded. With the information available, we estimate that mozzarella self-sufficiency has grown from 64% in 2017 to 77% in 2019, and averaged 68% over the three-year period. However there are a few caveats to note: We do not have official production statistics, but can estimate production based on the milk processing capacity of mozzarella-producing sites. Additionally, although we can get trade figures for fresh mozzarella, it is not known how much may be traded under processed or grated cheese codes instead.
*Please note that trade data is based on the cheddar trade code, but cheddar might also be traded under codes for grated or processed cheese of unspecified variety.
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