Imports add to lamb woes to distort UK trade

Imports add to lamb woes to distort UK trade

New figures reveal that although the volume of sheep meat imported into the UK fell in 2012, the timing and price of those imports had an effect on market prices in Wales.

“Between October 2012 and February 2013, the market price received by farmers in Britain for their lambs has been significantly below the levels seen the previous year,” said John Richards, information officer with Welsh red meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru.

“Additional numbers of domestic lambs were available at the tail end of the last year due to the poor weather experienced during the summer and early autumn.

“An already difficult situation was compounded by the strategy of importers. It is no coincidence that during this period, the amount of sheep meat that was imported into the UK increased.”

Although the overall quantity of sheep meat imported into the UK in 2012 stood at 86,000 tonnes, – 3% less than in 2011 – imports were considerably lower in the first half of 2012, being 13% below that for the period the previous year.

As a result, the figures for the final quarter of 2012 – when Welsh and UK supply is traditionally at its highest – show that imports of sheep meat were 28% higher than the corresponding period in 2011.

“While the UK has a long history of importing lamb into the country, the market was distorted during the latter half of 2012 because imports flooded in at a time when sales are usually dominated by UK produce,” said Richards.

Mr Richards said much of the imported sheep meat was sold at a lower price than in the previous year.

“Exporters, particularly those in New Zealand, made a commercial decision to price their lamb at considerably lower levels in the autumn of 2012 which made it more attractive to UK retailers,” he said.

New Zealand exported 62,500 tonnes to the UK, accounting for 73% of the sheep meat imports. The figures were compiled by HM Revenue and Customs.

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