Red meat exports from the UK rocketed to more than £1.5 billion last year – making 2019 one of the strongest years on record.

According to HMRC, the total value of red meat exports rose 13% year-on-year, with more than 661,000t of pork, lamb and beef shipped around the world, with growth in the Asian markets among the key factors.

While the lion’s share is still exported to Europe, strong growth was recorded for all three meat types to non-EU countries.

The strong figures come in a year with some good access wins for red meat, including Japan for both beef and lamb and China moving closer to the first shipments of UK beef for the first time in over 20 years. These wins will convert into commercial trade in 2020 offering further growth opportunities.

And with inward inspection visits from countries including Mexico in February of this year and the USA in the summer of 2019, industry leaders are optimistic of further market access wins in the year ahead.

AHDB international market development director Dr. Phil Hadley said: “This year has been phenomenal. As well as a record year in terms of both volume and value, we have also seen some incredible market access wins, which has helped make 2019 one of the best years for our red meat exports.

“This tremendous success is underpinned by AHDB’s commitment to target and grow key markets not only through the tremendous efforts of our export team, but also through a network of 13 agents and representatives across Europe as well as staff in the US, China and Hong Kong.”

In numbers

Latest figures show that 183,000t of beef and offal were exported in 2019, worth £532 million – up 7.5%. Sheep meat and offal shipments rose 12.5% to 99,000t, with a value of £402 million.

But it was pig meat that led the charge with total export volumes reaching 378,000t, worth £609 million – a rise of 24% compared to 2018.

And it was demand from China that helped boost the figures with shipments of pig meat, including offal, up 61% to 131,000t – worth a staggering £191 million compared to £77 million in 2018.

AHDB head of Asia Pacific Jonathan Eckley said: “The Asian market was key to the success of 2019, with demand for imported pork continuing across China in light of the ongoing ASF outbreak.

We have also seen great success for our pork exports to Taiwan, with £6.8 million worth of pig meat shipped in our first full year of trading, following the granting of market access in 2018.

Beef and offal exports to the Philippines saw a fourfold increase with volumes increasing to 3,736t. In recent years, AHDB has led two missions to Manilla alongside beef exporters in a bid to help grow the market.

AHDB will continue to explore new markets working alongside the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as well as UKECP, APHA and FSA, in addition to other industry bodies.