UK sheep meat imports still declining while exports increase

Friday, 20 December 2019

By Rebecca Wright

During October 2019, UK fresh and frozen sheep meat imports declined 14% year-on-year, to 3,200 tonnes, according to HMRC data. This continues the trend recorded throughout 2019. Not only was this a sharp year-on-year reduction, it was also down 2,000 tonnes compared to October 2017. 

In the year to October, imports are down 20%, to 52,300 tonnes. Shipments from New Zealand and Australia are both down. Meanwhile, imports from Ireland have increased, although not by enough to offset the decline from down under. Average prices have been marginally higher, meaning the total value of these imports is back 19%, to £254.8 million.

Import volumes have been under pressure so far this year as Australia and New Zealand have been shipping higher volumes to China. The increased demand in China has tightened up the global market significantly. On the back of this, global prices have continued at the higher level, with New Zealand prices being similar to GB prices for much of the summer and autumn.

Meanwhile, reported fresh and frozen exports increased 2% year-on-year, to 8,600 tonnes.  Shipments to France and Germany declined, but this was somewhat offset by small rises to many smaller destinations.

When looking at year to October data, however, the trends are different. Total exports have increased 18% and all large destinations have recorded growth, including France and Germany. Some of the overall rise can be attributed to particularly low shipments during late spring/summer 2018. The rest of the increase is due to declining shipments from other markets (including Spain, Ireland and New Zealand) to France and Germany. The average price has been back, meaning the total value is up 9%, to £322.2 million.

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