Red meat exports continue despite lockdowns
Latest trade figures from HMRC show that there continues to be a strong export market for Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef, despite the disruption caused by coronavirus lockdowns in Europe and beyond.
UK exports of beef and sheepmeat are down in April 2020 compared with the same month the previous year, however the total comparison for the first four months of the year show more modest changes. Beef exports are up 2.8% by volume as against the first four months of 2019, although the value was down slightly from £144million to £131million.
The volume of sheepmeat exports from the UK are down 18% as compared with the bumper export year of 2019, however the figures are broadly in line with the previous year. The value of exports in the first four months of 2020 was £121.7million, as opposed to £120.2million in 2018 and £127.9million in 2019. Pork exports continue to rise due to demand from China.
“We’re still facing what could be an even greater uncertainty at the end of the year if a trade agreement between the UK and the EU is not agreed, potentially leading to high tariffs on European exports.”
The trade figures also show that imports into the UK in April, notably of Irish beef and New Zealand lamb, have experienced a modest fall on previous years.
According to Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), the HMRC export figures show that demand is still present for Welsh meat, despite the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the closure of foodservice outlets.
“HMRC’s UK trade figures for April mark the height of lockdowns in many countries, and reflect a period when many restaurants and hotels – important markets for beef and lamb from Wales – were closed,” said HCC data analyst, Glesni Phillips.
“However, although export volumes are down somewhat as against last year due to the disruption, producers have adapted to changing demand,” she explained. “Lamb and beef from Wales is still being exported into retail and other sectors.”
Phillips emphasised that the outlook for the rest of the year was one of great uncertainty.
She said: “We are seeing lockdowns being lifted gradually in many countries, which should help the foodservice trade which is so valuable for the Welsh red meat sector. However it’s impossible to predict how quickly levels of hotel and restaurant demand will return to normal.”
“We’re still facing what could be an even greater uncertainty at the end of the year if a trade agreement between the UK and the EU is not agreed, potentially leading to high tariffs on European exports,” she warned. “These figures also highlight that over 90% of the UK’s beef and lamb exports go to the EU.”