UK beef trade: September imports grow, exports remain lower

Wednesday, 18 November 2020


In September, the UK imported 26,200 tonnes of beef (fresh and frozen, processed and offal). This was up 5% from August, and up 12% (2,900 tonnes) on September 2019. Almost the whole rise was due to more beef coming in from Ireland (+2,400 tonnes), although shipments were also higher from Brazil (+800 tonnes) and the Netherlands (+200 tonnes). However, imports are still well below the five-year average. Polish volumes fell by 250 tonnes.

Despite the growth in September, total imports for the year-to-date (Jan-Sep) are still down 7% on the year at 227,400 tonnes. Imports had been running below the level of last year until August, when shipments then recovered from key suppliers. At this time, the foodservice market regained some strength, although EU cattle remained competitively priced.


UK exports of beef during September totalled 13,700 tonnes, virtually unchanged from August, but notably (5,500 tonnes) lower year-on-year. Nearly two-thirds of the fall was due to lower shipments to the Netherlands and Ireland (-2,300 tonnes and -1,100 tonnes, respectively). Exports were also lower to Hong Kong and France, among others, but to a lesser extent. Exports were somewhat elevated in 2019 during the period of low farmgate prices, so September 2020 looks to be more in-line with typical volumes.

The September figures bring exports for the year-to-date to 133,600 tonnes, down 6% on the same period in 2019. These exports were valued at £382 million (-11%), with average unit prices 5% lower than the year before.

For the year-to-date, the majority of the annual decline in exports was due to less product being sent to the Netherlands, with less also sent to France, Italy, Spain and various smaller destinations. Total exports into the EU as a whole between Jan-Sep were down 13% year-on-year, while shipments to non-EU destinations were up by 14%. Shipments to Canada (+141%) and Japan (+179%) have shown some of the largest growth among non-EU recipients so far in 2020, with other countries like Ghana and the US also contributing.

Image of staff member Hannah Clarke

Hannah Clarke

Analyst - Livestock

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