Lamb exports continue to recover from Covid-19 disruption
According to latest export statistics from HMRC, strong figures for June mean that the value of UK lamb exports has recovered to similar levels to 2019 following coronavirus-related disruption earlier in the year.
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) says the news is encouraging as exports of Welsh Lamb are an important contributor to the sheep industry. Normally, between 35-40% of annual lamb production in Wales is consumed overseas, with countries in Europe and beyond providing a range of premium markets and an important outlet for cuts which are less favoured by the UK domestic consumer.
UK lamb exports in June stood at 7,150 tonnes, 2.9% higher than the same month last year. For the first half of 2020, the volume of exports totalled 38,570 tonnes, down by 13.3%, largely due to the disruption to foodservice business during Covid-19 lockdowns in the spring.
However, in terms of value, lamb exports during the year to date have now exceeded last year, being worth £191.1 million compared to £187.4 million for the first half of 2019.
“The fear with any major trade disruption, such as we have seen this year, is that progress that was being made in smaller but growing markets might stall.”
In June, there were strong export figures to a variety of countries, including France, Italy and Switzerland as well as a number of markets further afield such as Canada, Hong Kong and the Middle East.
HCC’s export development executive, Deanna Jones, said: “In many countries the foodservice sector is an important consumer of Welsh Lamb. We responded by focusing more on social media advertising and the retail sector, such as French-language recipe videos and marketing with supermarkets in Italy.
“The trade statistics for Italy are particularly pleasing. Not only did we see strong figures for June, but overall more lamb has been exported there in the first six months of 2020 than the same period in 2019.”
Deanna noted the continuing growth in the lamb trade in some countries outside Europe which have been targeted for strategic investment by HCC over the past three years through trade visits, a presence at major food shows and other market development initiatives.
“The fear with any major trade disruption, such as we have seen this year, is that progress that was being made in smaller but growing markets might stall,” said Deanna. “However, there has been continued significant growth in lamb exports to Canada, Hong Kong, and several countries in the Middle East.”
The June trade statistics confirm a fall in beef exports, partly reflecting strong domestic demand in the UK, and a continued rise in pork exports driven by a growth in demand in Asia.
HCC’s export promotion is supported by the Welsh Government’s Enhanced Export Development Programme, an investment of £1.5 million over three years to help prepare the industry for a post-Brexit world.