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UK pork imports, exports down

Consumption stable, but expected to decline, reports Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)

28 November 2021, at 10:00am

As Brexit disruptions ease and foodservice reopens, competition from European pork meat has increased this year.

The volume of pig meat imported into the UK remained below last year's levels, AHDB said in a recent report.

In Q3, pig meat imports totalled 204,000 tonnes, down 4% from last year. Looking at Q1 (-25%) and Q2 numbers (-8%), though, the extent of that decline has reduced.

AHDB analysts said this was to be expected, as Brexit disruptions ease and foodservice reopens. The increased availability of British meat has also limited import requirements. Furthermore, EU pork prices are very competitive, which is why analysts expect volumes to be similar to last year for the remainder of 2021.

Further downward pressure is expected, as the EU average pig reference price (35p/kg) is currently lower than its UK equivalent.

Exports also declined this year. While logistics have improved in terms of supplying the EU, demand from the Chinese market has waned and fallen significantly more than expected. Furthermore, the EU is oversupplied, which makes for a competitive market. Export levels in Q3 reached 52,000t tonnes, down 35% from last year.

Analysts expect stronger demand from China in the coming year, as recovery is expected to be unstable.

In terms of consumption, pork demand in Britain has continued to grow at the same pace as last year. New supplies of British pig meat available for consumption in the UK have been about 2% higher than last year's levels.

As volumes moving through foodservice and retail start to shift back towards pre-pandemic patterns though, the situation may become increasingly less favourable for British meat, said the report. Pork does, however, remain the only red meat with sales above 2019 at the retail level, likely driven by its lower price point in comparison to beef and lamb.