UK meat exporters look for opportunities outside China as competition heats up

Delegates to the first AHDB export webinar were told that work has begun to secure opportunities outside China as international competition to supply the Asian superpower heats up.

The 180 red meat experts in attendance heard that while coronavirus had significantly impacted global trade, there remains a myriad of opportunities for UK red meat exports – particularly in the Asian marketplace.

Outside of China, other Asian markets with underexploited potential include Taiwan, Singapore and especially Vietnam.

‘A decade to recover’

Rupert Claxton, meat director of GIRA, explained there is also potential in Vietnam for the UK pork sector. The country has seen a significant drop in domestic production as a result of the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak.

The latest research shows that so far this year, pork production has fallen by almost 17%, with expectations of a further drop to around 52% by the end of the year.

“We predict it could take a decade for the country’s pork sector to recover,” added Claxton. “Therefore, there is a real opportunity to potentially increase volumes over the next five to 10 years.”

Claxton explained that while Asian markets are emerging from coronavirus, with almost 90% of Chinese employees back in work, restaurants and canteens trade remains down between 30 and 40% and tourist travel is very limited.

He also stated that with the US expected to increase its pork exports to China (following a brief hiatus as a result of the coronavirus) competition for the Chinese marketplace looks set to intensify – therefore increasing the need for the UK to further develop a wide range of export opportunities.

During his presentation, AHDB’s head of Asia Pacific Jonathan Eckley, continued to stress the importance of markets such as Taiwan and Singapore, by highlighting the ongoing work of AHDB’s export team in these key markets.

“While inward and outward missions have been cancelled due to coronavirus, the work of AHDB’s export team continues and we are working collaboratively with agencies and partners in a number of markets to fly the flag for the UK’s red meat sector,” he said.

Eckley explained the challenges at the start of 2020 following lockdown in China, which resulted in some logistical disruptions affecting shipments.

However, by the end of March, he said UK pig meat exports had again surpassed year-earlier levels, driven by increased demand as logistics started to ease in China.

We know that it is a very challenging time, not just for the UK, but work is ongoing to promote the high quality of our red meat to new and emerging markets.

“Travel restrictions will continue to cause difficulties for us and other nations, but we are finding new and innovative ways of working to ensure that the UK is well-positioned to benefit from all future global opportunities,” he added.