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Lamb trade balances – 2019

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

By Rebecca Wright

Last year recorded some unusual trends for UK sheep meat trade. Historically, during the spring and early summer when UK lamb production is at its lowest, the UK becomes a net importer of sheep meat. However, the amount the UK has imported has been reducing over recent years, and in 2019 there were just two months (March and April) when the UK was a net importer.

Despite this change, imports remain important for managing carcase balance. The UK is a net importer of leg cuts, but tends to export whole and half carcases. Also of note, most exports are of fresh product, whereas imports, although more balanced, slightly favour frozen product.

Last year average import prices rose to just under £5/kg. The protein shortage in China, because of African Swine Fever, supported global prices which had already been trending higher due to tight production in New Zealand and Australia. Despite these high prices, the total value of UK imports dropped due to the reduction in volume, to £311.6 million.

Export prices recorded a slight drop on-the-year, to £4.20/kg, which was a reflection of the more amply supplied European market. But, the higher UK export volume, meant that their total value increased to £339.4 million.

Skins and offal

The volume of sheep skins exported in 2019 was up slightly on the year, to 63,500 tonnes. In contrast however, due to a decline in prices, the value of these exports dropped 29%, to £24.9 million. Offal exports last year totalled 5,800 tonnes, with a value of £8.7 million.

Rebecca Wright

Analyst - Red Meat

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