Imported frozen beef market share at highest level on record

Thursday, 19 January 2023


Imports of fresh and frozen beef totalled almost 19,000 tonnes in November. This is both a decrease on the month of 2,150 tonnes (10.2%), and 3,800 (16.8%) tonnes back on the year. Imports eased most notably from Ireland, both from the previous month as well as November last year. Irish imports totalled 14,600 tonnes in November, back 2,300 tonnes (13.8%) on October and almost 3,000 tonnes (16.9%) on the same month last year.

Fresh imports eased in November, accounting for 66.3% of total imports, compared with 71.6% in October. There was a slight increase in frozen imports from the EU on the month, most notably Germany, Poland and the Netherlands, however increased trade with countries such as Brazil and New Zealand have helped bolster the frozen category. This trend supports recent industry commentary, highlighting that the global frozen meat market would increase by almost 5% to 2027, driven by changes in lifestyle and convenience trends.

In the year to date (Jan – Nov), 211,700 tonnes of fresh and frozen beef have been imported into the UK. This is 6,400 tonnes (2.9%) back on the same period in 2021. Whilst fresh beef remains the largest import category, there has been a shift towards increased frozen beef entering the UK over the last few years, increasing its market share from around 32% in 2019-2021, up to more than 37% in 2022 for the year to date.


Export volumes of fresh and frozen beef for November held stable on October with 10,100 tonnes exported (+0.1%). When compared with the same month last year exports were back 215 tonnes (2.1%). Reduction in shipments to Hong Kong and Japan were some notable falls, contributing to a decrease of more than 700 tonnes on last year, despite an uplift in EU trade (+696 tonnes).

Year to date (Jan – Nov), 113,400 tonnes of fresh and frozen beef has been exported, up more than 21,000 tonnes (23%) on 2021. Whilst unsurprising that recovery of trade with the EU has significantly helped export figures in the year to date, due to trade disruption in  2021, increased trade was also seen over the 11 months with a number of other nations, including Canada (+921 tonnes).

The split of fresh and frozen beef exported year to date is beginning to return to pre pandemic and pre-Brexit levels, with fresh products accounting for 69.8% (79,100 tonnes) of exports. In 2019, fresh beef accounted for 72.8% of exports, however dipped almost 9% in 2020, and then again in 2021 to 58.8%. The EU accounts for the majority of our fresh beef exports (98.5% of total fresh beef in the year to date), therefore continues to represent an important trade partner for UK beef exports.

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