Strong start to the year for red meat exports – despite Covid-19

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Red meat exports from the UK have enjoyed a good start to the year with shipments already worth £733 million in the first six months – up nearly three per cent on the same period last year.

The strong results come during one of the most challenging years on record for red meat exports due to the ongoing difficulties caused by Covid-19.

According to data from HMRC, pork exports led the way with a 15 per cent increase in value to £311 million. While challenges on some EU markets resulted in a 10 per cent decline in EU shipments, non-EU pork and pig meat offal exports were up 17 per cent on the year to end June, accounting for 59 per cent of UK exports.  

AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley said: “Given the exceptional circumstances of this year, these half yearly figures show that despite Covid-19, our meat sectors have continued to export their products around the world.

“There are a number of positive factors for the first half of 2020, including our exports to non-EU countries and while Europe remains our most significant market for red meat exports, it is imperative with Brexit on the horizon, that we continue  to take advantage of the opportunities third countries offer.”

While both volume and value for beef exports were down on last year, shipments to non-EU countries were up 21 per cent and 46 per cent respectively. The overall decline in beef shipments was due to Covid-related challenges on the global foodservice market and strong domestic demand.

Among the key third country destinations for UK beef is Japan, which has seen 1,369 tonnes of beef shipped so far this year after the UK gained market access in early 2019 – bringing a £4.7 million boost to the sector.

Other regions which have seen a rise in exports include the Philippines with volumes up 51 per cent to 1,958 tonnes and Canada where shipments have grown to 968 tonnes from a modest 26 tonnes last year.

Sheep meat exports have increased in value by almost two per cent, worth £195 million over the first six months – with a 129 per cent rise in volumes to non-EU countries both for commodity cuts to markets such as Ghana or, at the higher end of the market, to Canada which both recorded sharp rises in shipments this year.

Dr Hadley added: “While we don’t know what the next six months will bring, we can see that we are in a strong position in regards to our red meat exports and we hope to build on these impressive figures for the remainder of 2020.

“Despite the many restrictions in place due to Covid-19, AHDB continues to work with government and industry bodies to grow our presence in existing markets as well as work to secure access for new markets which will bring a number of opportunities for our producers here in the UK, such as the first shipments of UK beef to the US and China – both of which are expected this year.”