Beef exports down 31% compared to 2020

Strong domestic demand, a tight supply, the impact of Covid and logistical issues following Brexit have combined to produce a subdued picture for red meat exports during the first half of 2021, according to data analysed by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

Data from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) indicates that UK exports of beef were 31% lower in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period last year, while exports of sheepmeat were almost 25% down.

A primary driver of this change is strong domestic retail demand which is limiting the volume of product available for export, combined with a tight supply.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) figures also show that prime cattle slaughterings were down 3% on the year while the number of prime lambs slaughtered was down by 8% during the first six months of the year.

In addition, the limited demand from the foodservice sector in countries overseas as a result of Covid restrictions has reduced export demand, while trade has also been affected by some logistical issues following Brexit.

All of these factors have had an impact on the value of lamb and beef exports from Wales; they normally total £200 million a year, but are – as expected by industry insiders – somewhat down this year.

Meat imports

The volume of meat imported into the UK was also affected between January and June, with beef and sheepmeat imports down by nearly 13% and 16% on the year.

Glesni Phillips, Data Analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has compiled a new Market Bulletin which analyses the data.

She said: “The major changes in society and politics in the last couple of years have had a substantial impact on trade so far this year, as the latest HMRC data shows.

The closure of the foodservice sector in the UK and overseas has changed consumer eating habits, resulting in a weaker demand for imported goods.

“In addition to this, the strong demand for red meat from British consumers at retail has affected the volume available for exporting.

“However, this has not changed the UK’s reliance on key markets such as Ireland, France and Germany.

“Despite importing and exporting significantly less red meat, they remain important markets for our red meat industry. France accounted for over 48% of the total sheepmeat export value during the period.”

Glesni added: “As the supply of lamb is usually highest during the latter half of the year, it is expected that the sheep meat trade will improve, however, the continued strong farmgate prices may impact on export volumes particularly to price sensitive markets.”