Lamb trade volumes still subdued

Thursday, 18 November 2021

By Rebecca Wright

During September UK exports of fresh and frozen sheep meat totalled 6,500 tonnes, 16% lower than a year ago, according to HMRC data. Trade friction between the UK and EU is no doubt having an impact on volumes. Production has also been lower meaning there is less product available, especially since imports from New Zealand are also challenged.

UK sheep meat exports lower in 2021

Based upon recorded production from Defra and HMRC export data approximately 29% of reported production was exported in September. This is a marked rise compared to earlier in the year. Pre-pandemic and before the end of the Brexit transition period just over a third of production was exported.

Imports during the month recorded a 38% year-on-year decrease, to 2,500 tonnes. Almost the entire decline can be attributed to New Zealand, with Ireland also recording a small decline. There was a small rise in volumes from Australia.

UK supply of lamb reduced

Looking at the total picture there appears to be significantly less sheep meat on the UK market this year. Between January and September this year there was around 162,500 tonnes of sheep meat available for consumption in the UK. If true, this would be a 7% decrease on year earlier volumes and 23% down on five years ago.

There is some suggestion within the industry that the Defra recorded production figure may be on the low side. However, even if we raised production by 5% and kept trade figures the same, available supplies in the UK would still be squeezed. We are seeing the lack of lambs available to come forwards play out in British lamb prices, and can infer that there are more lambs than last year on the ground. What is less clear is just how many more.

Click here to view the AHDB trade data dashboards.

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Rebecca Wright

Senior Analyst - Red Meat

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