UK beef trade remains higher on the year in October

Thursday, 16 December 2021

As of January 2021 data, the way HMRC collects trade data has changed, which will be reflected in the trade statistics. Comparisons between this and historic data should be treated with caution, and may well be subject to future revisions.


The UK’s beef imports remained higher than 2020 levels in October, with a total of 22,600 tonnes of fresh and frozen beef shipped in, according to the latest HMRC figures. This was 11% more versus the same month a year ago, but 21% lower than September.

In actual terms, the majority of the uplift came from Ireland, while more beef was also imported from Germany and Uruguay. For the year-to-date (Jan-Oct), 194,400 tonnes of beef was imported, up 4% compared to the same period a year ago. A 9% increase in the average price of these shipments put their total value at £829 million.


For beef heading out of the country, volumes also increased in October. A total of 10,100 tonnes of fresh and frozen beef was exported during the month, up 22% from September and up 13% compared to October last year.

Shipments increased slightly to Ireland - the UK’s largest market - but it was an increase in exports to France that drove the overall volume growth for October. Shipments to France have been in annual growth since March, making it the second-largest destination for UK beef so far in 2021 (Jan-Oct) and overtaking volumes sent to the Netherlands. This is potentially because some UK exporters now find it administratively easier to export first to France, and then ship on from there to other European destinations.

Shipments to the EU as a whole have generally been on an upward trend through 2021, although for the year-to-date (Jan-Oct), volumes are still 14% below the same period a year ago. Exports to non-EU countries have also increased through the year, but are up 5% for the year-to-date. This has been mostly driven by increased shipments to the Philippines and Iran, the latter being a new market for the UK in 2021.

For exports in total, volumes for the year to October (inclusive) stood at 82,000 tonnes, 14% lower than the same period a year ago. A 5% increase in the average price of these exports put their overall value at £287 million.

So, what next?

For a forward view of beef trade over the coming months, keep an eye out for our next Agri-Market Outlook, which we will be publishing in January. In the meantime, you can read our current outlooks, which include a longer-term focus on the environment.

Image of staff member Hannah Clarke

Hannah Clarke

Senior Analyst (Red Meat)

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