UK pig meat exports remain weak

Thursday, 16 December 2021

By Bethan Wilkins

The UK’s export performance continued to falter in October. Fresh/frozen pork shipments were down compared to both September (-5%) and October the previous year (-45%), at 13,500 tonnes.

Pork shipments to China were barely over 4,000 tonnes, just a third of last year’s level, and the lowest volume since December 2018.

Exports to the EU were also down 35% to under 7,000 tonnes. Falling Chinese demand has led to oversupply within the EU and low prices, meaning UK product is uncompetitive. Ongoing effects of Brexit are also probably still playing a role.

Shipments of bacon, ham and sausages also recorded declines. Offal exports weakened too, with October’s total of 9,700 tonnes 12% lower than last year, although this was still higher than the September volume. The decrease was largely down to lower shipments to China (-35%). All in all, it is clear that the weaker Chinese market has significantly depressed our export prospects, alongside those of other global pork exporters.

Table of UK pig meat trade in October

As has been the case throughout 2021, UK fresh/frozen pork imports during October were down on a year earlier (-15%), at 28,800 tonnes. Ham imports were also 17% lower than in 2020 and sausage volumes were 4% lower, continuing trends seen throughout the year so far. Bacon continued to be the exception to the generally falling picture, with volumes up by 2%.

Despite pork imports overall being lower, volumes of boneless product held steady, as some processors attempt to dedicate their own butchery staff to dealing with British pigs.

With imports remaining low in October, overall pig meat imports (incl. offal) remain depressed in the year to date, totalling 589,000 tonnes, which is 9% below the already low level shipped in 2020.

Low prices for pork in the EU are likely still having a negative effect on our domestic pork prices, as long as the potential remains for this pork to be imported if its price competitiveness is strong. Nonetheless, so far it seems that the volume of EU pork that has actually arrived in the UK is relatively low.

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